Maria de Agreda - The Lady in Blue

María Coronel y Arana (1602-1665), Abbess of Ágreda, Spain, better-known by her religious name, the Venerable María de Jesús de Ágreda. She is also known as ‘The Lady in Blue’ and sometimes as ‘The Blue Nun’ or ‘The Flying Nun’. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_de_Agreda.

'This amazing episode in American history should be written in every history book and known by all Americans, for it proves that the Catholic religion is the one true religion, since only by the power of God could Sister Maria de Agreda have done what she did.' (Miller, Adam, 'Discovering a Lost Heritage - The Catholic Origins of America' , Marian Publications Inc., 2006, p. 79)

'Mother Mary of Agreda is a woman of great stature, not only in her own time, who with her teachings, with her spiritual influences and her extraordinary virtue has conquered the world.' ('Profezie per il terzo millennio' ('Prophecies for the third millennium'), http://profezie3m.altervista.org/ptm_c31g.htm, accessed 16/9/2014)

'The Immaculate Conception' by Murillo.

Paradiso, Canto XXXIII

'Thou Virgin Mother, daughter of thy Son,
Humble and high beyond all other creature,
The limit fixed of the eternal counsel,

Thou art the one who such nobility
To human nature gave, that its Creator
Did not disdain to make himself its creature.

Within thy womb rekindled was the love,
By heat of which in the eternal peace
After such wise this flower has germinated.

Here unto us thou art a noonday torch
Of charity, and below there among mortals
Thou art the living fountain-head of hope.

Lady, thou art so great, and so prevailing,
That he who wishes grace, nor runs to thee,
His aspirations without wings would fly.

Not only thy benignity gives succour
To him who asketh it, but oftentimes
Forerunneth of its own accord the asking.

In thee compassion is, in thee is pity,
In thee magnificence; in thee unites
Whate'er of goodness is in any creature.

Now doth this man, who from the lowest depth
Of the universe as far as here has seen
One after one the spiritual lives,

Supplicate thee through grace for so much power
That with his eyes he may uplift himself
Higher towards the uttermost salvation.

And I, who never burned for my own seeing
More than I do for his, all of my prayers
Proffer to thee, and pray they come not short,

That thou wouldst scatter from him every cloud
Of his mortality so with thy prayers,
That the Chief Pleasure be to him displayed.

Still farther do I pray thee, Queen, who canst
Whate'er thou wilt, that sound thou mayst preserve
After so great a vision his affections.

Let thy protection conquer human movements;
See Beatrice and all the blessed ones
My prayers to second clasp their hands to thee!"

The eyes beloved and revered of God,
Fastened upon the speaker, showed to us
How grateful unto her are prayers devout;

Then unto the Eternal Light they turned,
On which it is not credible could be
By any creature bent an eye so clear.

And I, who to the end of all desires
Was now approaching, even as I ought
The ardour of desire within me ended.

Bernard was beckoning unto me, and smiling,
That I should upward look; but I already
Was of my own accord such as he wished;

Because my sight, becoming purified,
Was entering more and more into the ray
Of the High Light which of itself is true.

From that time forward what I saw was greater
Than our discourse, that to such vision yields,
And yields the memory unto such excess.

Even as he is who seeth in a dream,
And after dreaming the imprinted passion
Remains, and to his mind the rest returns not,

Even such am I, for almost utterly
Ceases my vision, and distilleth yet
Within my heart the sweetness born of it;

Even thus the snow is in the sun unsealed,
Even thus upon the wind in the light leaves
Were the soothsayings of the Sibyl lost.

O Light Supreme, that dost so far uplift thee
From the conceits of mortals, to my mind
Of what thou didst appear re-lend a little,

And make my tongue of so great puissance,
That but a single sparkle of thy glory
It may bequeath unto the future people;

For by returning to my memory somewhat,
And by a little sounding in these verses,
More of thy victory shall be conceived!

I think the keenness of the living ray
Which I endured would have bewildered me,
If but mine eyes had been averted from it;

And I remember that I was more bold
On this account to bear, so that I joined
My aspect with the Glory Infinite.

O grace abundant, by which I presumed
To fix my sight upon the Light Eternal,
So that the seeing I consumed therein!

I saw that in its depth far down is lying
Bound up with love together in one volume,
What through the universe in leaves is scattered;

Substance, and accident, and their operations,
All interfused together in such wise
That what I speak of is one simple light.

The universal fashion of this knot
Methinks I saw, since more abundantly
In saying this I feel that I rejoice.

One moment is more lethargy to me,
Than five and twenty centuries to the emprise
That startled Neptune with the shade of Argo!

My mind in this wise wholly in suspense,
Steadfast, immovable, attentive gazed,
And evermore with gazing grew enkindled.

In presence of that light one such becomes,
That to withdraw therefrom for other prospect
It is impossible he e'er consent;

Because the good, which object is of will,
Is gathered all in this, and out of it
That is defective which is perfect there.

Shorter henceforward will my language fall
Of what I yet remember, than an infant's
Who still his tongue doth moisten at the breast.

Not because more than one unmingled semblance
Was in the living light on which I looked,
For it is always what it was before;

But through the sight, that fortified itself
In me by looking, one appearance only
To me was ever changing as I changed.

Within the deep and luminous subsistence
Of the High Light appeared to me three circles,
Of threefold colour and of one dimension,

And by the second seemed the first reflected
As Iris is by Iris, and the third
Seemed fire that equally from both is breathed.

O how all speech is feeble and falls short
Of my conceit, and this to what I saw
Is such, 'tis not enough to call it little!

O Light Eterne, sole in thyself that dwellest,
Sole knowest thyself, and, known unto thyself
And knowing, lovest and smilest on thyself!

That circulation, which being thus conceived
Appeared in thee as a reflected light,
When somewhat contemplated by mine eyes,

Within itself, of its own very colour
Seemed to me painted with our effigy,
Wherefore my sight was all absorbed therein.

As the geometrician, who endeavours
To square the circle, and discovers not,
By taking thought, the principle he wants,

Even such was I at that new apparition;
I wished to see how the image to the circle
Conformed itself, and how it there finds place;

But my own wings were not enough for this,
Had it not been that then my mind there smote
A flash of lightning, wherein came its wish.

Here vigour failed the lofty fantasy:
But now was turning my desire and will,
Even as a wheel that equally is moved,
The Love which moves the sun and the other stars.'

Wilton Diptych (detail)

'Among the holy souls of past centuries who have been loaded with signal favors and privileges by the Queen of Heaven, we must, without doubt, place in the first rank Mary of Jesus, often styled of Agreda, from the name of the place in Spain where she passed her life. The celebrated J. Görres, in his monumental work, Mysticism, fears not to cite as an example the life of Mary of Agreda, in a chapter entitled, “The Culminating Point of Christian Mysticism.” Indeed, there could be found no more perfect model of the highest mystic ways. Her life is a striking example, in which it is important to study attentively the progress of a soul which, according to the words of the prophet, ascends by degrees to the height of perfection: ibunt de virtute in virtutem - goes from virtue to virtue.' (The Abbé J. A. Boullan, D.D.)

Index

Sor (Sister) María - Introduction
Sor (Sister) María - Her appearance
Sor (Sister) María's probable Jewish ancestry
Sor (Sister) María's early life and youth
'The Mystical City of God' - 'the most extraordinary and the most astonishing book that ever issued from mortal hands'
Sor (Sister) María's 500 or more bilocation visits to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas - 'unparalled in the entire history of the world'
Sor (Sister) María in New Mexico
Sor (Sister) María and the setting up of the missions in Texas
Angelina, the 'Little Angel' of the Hainai
Sor (Sister) María - The Legend of the Bluebonnet, state flower of Texas
Origin of chili con carne - a heaven-sent dish?
Sor (Sister) María in Arizona (including the Colorado River)
Sor (Sister) María in California
Sor (Sister) María - other traditions (Caborca, New Mexico and The Alamo, Texas)
Sor (Sister) María today
Sor (Sister) María's 500 or more bilocation visits to New Mexico, Texas and Arizona - Can we believe it?
Sor (Sister) María's 500 bilocation visits to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas - What would a modern court of law say?
Bilocation in the Roman Catholic Church
Two different methods of colonization (the Roman Catholic/Spanish and the Protestant/Northern European) - education versus extermination - the triumph of the latter and the consequences for the native American peoples
The role of the Roman Catholic Church in protecting the Pueblos (native Indian towns) of the American South-West down to the present day
Sor (Sister) María's role in the history of 'New Spain' - her inspiration of the Franciscan missionaries, her role as the 'arch colonizer' and the expansion of 'New Spain' across the USA via the mission system.
How the USA became 'The Land of Mary Immaculate' in 1846 and the connection to Sor (Sister) María
'La Conquistadora', the oldest Madonna in the USA and her connection to Sor (Sister) María
Sor (Sister) María as religious and political advisor to King Philip IV of Spain (1605-1665) - the most powerful woman in Europe?
Sor (Sister) María's miracles
Sor (Sister) María - First accurate description of the appearance of the Earth from space
Sor (Sister) María's death
Sor (Sister) María - The incorruptibility of her body
Sor (Sister) María - The beatification process (341 years and counting)
Sor (Sister) María's detractors
Sor (Sister) María - Is it true?
Sor (Sister) María - Who is working on her behalf today?
Sor (Sister) María - A new 'Da Vinci Code'
Sor (Sister) María - A shadow in the dunes
Sor (Sister) María - The Lord of the Rings
Sor María - Her significance in the Roman Catholic Church
Sor (Sister) María's significance in the history of the USA
Sor (Sister) María's significance in the history of Spain
Sor (Sister) María's significance in the history of the world
Sor (Sister) María - A plea for beatification and then canonization
Further information
Other Maria Coronels
Postscript - Sor (Sister) María's supposed coat of arms at the Convent of the Immaculate Conception, Ágreda, Soria, Spain
Postscript - Another Coronel in the US South-West

Sor (Sister) María - Introduction

'For more than three and a half centuries, the Venerable Mary of Agreda has been a controversial figure. Her cause for beatification has been violently opposed on two grounds: fraudulent claims to mystical experience, and false theology boarding on heresy. Recently [1999] the Holy Office (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) has definitively cleared the Venerable Mary of the first charges, but indicated her beatification would equivalently give approval to an irrelevant and potentially harmful mariology. In this book, Fr. Llamas vigorously defends the orthodoxy and profound biblical character of her mariology as well as its relevance to the Church today.' - Cover note of 'Venerable Mother Agreda and the Mariology of Vatican II' by Fr. Enrique Llamas (Salamanca, 2003, 2006 reprint).

This is not quite the full picture. The 1999 statement stated that there were no errors of doctrine or heresies in 'The Mystical City of God' but went on to state that the view of the Virgin Mary in that book contrasted with that of Sacred Scripture and the Mariology of Vatican II. This is completely contradictory; a view that is free from doctrinal error must, by definition, also be in accordance with Sacred Scripture because doctrine is derived from Sacred Scripture (and, to a lesser extent, sacred tradition). The possible reasons for this contradictory statement are examined below.

Here's a question. Of all the miracles performed by all the saints in all of history, which is the most unbelievable? Curing the sick? Raising the dead? How about a 17th century nun who flew across the Atlantic more than 500 times, 300 years before the invention of the aeroplane? It's got to be near the top, if not at the top, hasn't it? But, amazingly, when I looked at the evidence of this miracle I became convinced not only that it had actually happened but that a modern court of law would have to rule that it did, as I explain below. I am entirely neutral about miracles and, like most people (as well as the Roman Catholic Church itself of course), I don't make up my mind about whether a particular miracle actually happened without looking at the evidence (in fact I have never previously done this in relation to any miracle), but I don't discount the possibility that miracles can happen, whatever they are (or appear to be - in some cases perhaps we just don't understand what we see).

Two months after first hearing about the Venerable María de Jesús de Ágreda and having read and absorbed all the material I could find about her in the meantime I am still in a state of absolute astonishment. It cannot be true but it is. I am still reading 'The Mystical City of God', which is the most beautiful, moving and inspiring work (written by human hand) that I have ever read. It surpasses Shakespeare, not just in the exquisite and touching beauty of its language but in its subject matter as well. How can any play - tragedy or comedy - compare to such an important, moving and holy subject? She is, in my view, quite simply the most extraordinary person ever to have lived (outside the Holy Family), most remarkable even amongst the Saints.* From an initial position of complete neutrality ('Bilocation? Never heard of it - but let's see the evidence.') I have moved to complete conviction, based mainly on my assessment of the evidence but also on my judgment of her character. In short, she was faithful, religious, God-fearing, humble, self-effacing, loving, sincere, kind and honest; as without stain as any person can be. She was largely untutored but extraordinarily learned and even the Inquisition concluded that she acquired 'infused knowledge' by prayer and contemplation. We all know the difference between a dream and waking reality - and so did she. When she says 'I saw the Virgin Mary' she means precisely that; not a vision, not a dream but physically saw in the same way that you or I might say 'I saw Jim in the shop' and not 'I dreamt of Jim in the shop'. She differentiates between inspiration, vision and physically seeing - and she experienced all three**. When she was not sure about what she saw, she said so. As the Pope ruled shortly after her death by making her a Venerable of the Church, she lived a life of heroic virtue. Heroic virtue.*** She died with the words 'Virtue, virtue, virtue' on her lips. She was incapable of any form of deceit and never sought the least fame or glory for herself; in fact, she recoiled from both. This is the test of truth. She clearly felt great fear at having to tell the full facts about her experiences (as she was bound by her vows to do) for the simple reason that she knew that even the most religious and sincere of men are capable of disbelieving or misunderstanding the truth when it is so extraordinary, indeed shocking - and possibly doing wrong to her and others as a result. In her 1631 letter to the missionaries of New Mexico she begged them to keep the details of her bilocations secret. When she raised a man from the dead she swore the witnesses to secrecy and the matter only came to light long after her death. How can the word 'fraud' be associated in any way with such a person? Fraud is conduct aimed at obtaining a benefit by deception; so if no benefit is sought there can be no fraud. Which means that if María de Jesús de Ágreda said anything that was false, it was said falsely to no purpose. Falsehood for the sake of nothing; in fact, at considerable risk to herself. This doesn't make sense. Why would a nun who lived a life of heroic virtue lie for no purpose whatsoever? Answer came there none. So I conclude that if there is anything contradictory or apparently wrong in anything she says there is an explanation for it; it is just a matter of finding that explanation. Such is my faith in her character. Not that I expect you to take my word for it; you must examine the evidence and judge for yourself - as I have done. What a glorious and shattering truth awaits you.

*'In many respects her life was a faithful copy of that of St. Francis. The miracle of bilocation related of her is in fact more remarkable and lasted a longer time than that recorded anywhere in the lives of the saints. Her good sense, her truthfulness, her sincerity, her humility, her unselfish love of God and man eminently adapted her for the communication of messages from God to men.' - The 'Special Notice to the Reader' in the first (1912) English edition of 'The Mystical City of God'.
**'For example 'What is more, the angels themselves in visible shapes, being the prelates and ministers of the Lord in his holy Church, have pointed out and reiterated the divine commandment, bidding me to believe and execute this commission, and to continue to the end.' ('The Mystical City of God', Vol. 4, Introduction).
***Heroic virtue requires a life exemplified by faith, hope, charity (love), prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

In short, María de Jesús de Ágreda:

- wrote the most astonishing book ever written by human hand in the history of the world ('The Mystical City of God') because it was substantially revealed to her word for word by the Virgin Mary ('the most extraordinary and the most astonishing book that ever issued from mortal hands' - Father Laurent in the introduction to the English edition of the work);

- performed the most extraordinary miracle of all the miracles ever performed by the saints (her 500 or more bilocations to America) and, in so doing, inspired the conquest of an empire (by love as opposed to by force) that has outlasted the empires of the Greeks, the Romans and every other imperial power in the history of the world ('unparalleled in the entire history of the world.... Of the two great landings in America in 1620 - the Pilgrims in the north at Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Agreda in the south - the mystical one has, and will yet have, far greater influence upon the history of the world.' - Doctor Carlos E. Castañeda, Catholic historian);

- was the most powerful woman in Europe, and therefore the world, in her lifetime ('Her influence was thus almost unbounded.' - Henry Charles Lea, 'A History of the Inquisition of Spain', Vol. 4, Book 8, Chapter 5).

yet she never left her convent and considered herself the least deserving of God's creatures, often calling herself a 'vile wormlet'.

A vile wormlet.

Certain elements within the Roman Catholic Church seem to have been afraid of María de Jesús de Ágreda for three hundred and fifty years because they are concerned that her beatification might lead to an inappropriate and irrelevant emphasis on the role of the Virgin Mary at the expense of Jesus as the sole Redeemer. Nonetheless, two of the major doctrines she propounded (the Immaculate Conception and papal infallibility) did eventually become church dogma, as explained below, and more than 500 cardinals and bishops around the world support the third 'missing dogma' that she propounded; the Virgin Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces and Co-Redemptress (which has been called 'The Secret Weapon of the Church'). Why have they waited so long? Do they not realize that in opposing the message of the Venerable María de Jesús de Ágreda they are opposing the Virgin Mary herself - for the Venerable María de Jesús de Ágreda was merely a messenger, selected for her simple virtue, her unshakeable faith and her boundless love? It is heart-breaking.

What I have found while investigating Sor María has been rather dispiriting, for the following reasons:

  • In the first place, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has been involved in blatant, deliberate and serious abuses of procedure and Canon Law in order to obstruct the beatification process; the most serious of these are (1) selectively ignoring formal papal rulings, (2) requiring an assessment of Sor María's writings when this has already been done (done repeatedly in fact) and (3) preventing this assessment from taking place having said it is necessary. The obstruction seems to be driven not by a concern for compliance with church doctrine but a desire, expressed in Vatican II, not to alienate non-Catholics with what they might regard as excessive Mariology. In short, Sor María's beatification process has become a political football. This is explained in the section Sor (Sister) María - The beatification process (341 years and counting).
  • In the second place, detractors of Sor María, including the Catholic Encyclopedia, have been involved in serious manipulation of, concealment of and distortion of the historical evidence, as well as indulging in obvious logical fallacies and non-sequiturs when assessing the limited evidence they are prepared to admit; these detractors include the distinguished art historian, Sir Thomas Downing Kendrick (1895-1979), a Director of the British Museum, and the leading (non-Spanish) historian of the Spanish Inquisition, Henry Charles Lea (1825-1909). This is explained in the sections Sor (Sister) María's 500 or more bilocation visits to New Mexico, Texas and Arizona - Can we believe it?, Sor (Sister) María's 500 bilocation visits to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas - What would a modern court of law say? and Sor (Sister) María's detractors.
  • In the third place, none of the people who one thinks of (initially) as being on Sor María's side (or, at least, sympathetic to her cause) seem to be prepared to express a firm opinion either that Sor María's major work, 'The Mystical City of God', was divinely inspired or that she actually did bilocate to America from Spain, whereas, as far as I can see, putting oneself in a position to express a firm opinion in support of these contentions merely requires the application of some pretty basic common sense to the evidence according to relevant legal rules - which is what I have tried to do here. In fact, I have only come across one author who has been prepared to state firmly that she believes in Sor María's bilocations and that is Beulah Mullen Karney in her book 'Mary of Agreda', as quoted in the section Sor (Sister) María's significance in the history of the world. What was extraordinary was that Karney and I arrived at the same conclusion from different directions; Karney from the spiritual perspective and me from a legal assessment of the evidence. Once I had concluded that Sor María did bilocate there was only one possible (and obvious) reason for her doing so - but Karney had got there already. Having enemies who oppose you is bad enough but having 'friends' who refuse to support you is worse.
  • Having said that it appears that, to a large extent, local communities in New Mexico (Isleta, Socorro, Mountainair, Manzano, Torreon etc.) and Texas (such as San Angelo), Indian tribes (such as the Jumano-Apache) and local Roman Catholic priests do firmly believe in Sor María's bilocations, as explained in the section Sor (Sister) María today.

'Not to oppose error is to approve it; and not to defend truth is to suppress it; and indeed to neglect to confound evil men, when we can do it, is no less a sin than to encourage them.' - Pope St. Felix III

'The person who does not become irate when he has cause to be, sins. For an unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices; it fosters negligence and stimulates not only the wicked, but above all the good, to do wrong.' - St. John Chrysostom, Homily XI super Matheum, 1c, nt.7.

'Justice is simply the social good, and it must therefore be done. It is defined as “giving each his due” – cuique sum, “to each his own.” A man is due his life because he is a living thing; it is his nature to have life; and, since it is also his nature to be moral, if a man commits a crime, he must be punished because punishment is retributive – punishment is the penalty due the criminal in justice to him. Proportioned punishment is due him, too, and you cannot deny him that right without yourself committing an injustice against him deserving punishment in turn. The judge who fails the criminal in punishment himself incurs a greater guilt… The greatest evil in the world is to do wrong without being punished.' (Dr. John Senior, 'The Death of Christian Culture', IHS Press, 1978 (2008 reprint), p. 115-117)

María de Jesús de Ágreda - A timeline

(Taken from Fedewa, 'María of Ágreda - Mystical Lady in Blue')

1602 Birth of Maria Coronel in Agreda, Spain.
1605 Birth of Spanish Hapsburg Prince Felipe (Philip), future king of Spain, Portugal, Naples, and Sicily.
1618 Thirty Years' War begins.
1620 Nuns witness Sor Maria levitating in Agreda; she reports simultaneous bilocation to New World.
1620 Marriage of Prince Felipe to Isabel de Bourbon, daughter of King Henry IV of France.
1621 Death of King Felipe III. Prince Felipe accedes to throne as Felipe IV under thumb of minister Olivares.
1623 Church conducts ecclesiastical investigation of Sor Maria of Agreda and exonerates her.
1626 Native Americans inform New Mexico missionaries of repeated apparitions of Lady in Blue.
1627 Sor Maria is elected abbess of the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, Agreda, Spain.
1628 Letters circulate between New World and Spain about Spanish nun's supernatural appearances.
1629 Native American Jumano chieftain, Capitan Tuerto, cites appearances of a Lady in Blue.
1630 New Spain missionary, Alonso de Benavides, writes report to Felipe IV about the Lady in Blue.
1631 de Benavides visits Agreda for three-week interrogation on Sor Maria's bilocations and confirms them.
1635 Spanish Inquisition opens case against bilocation experiences of Maria of Agreda.
1637 Sor Maria begins writing controversial biography of Mary as Co-Redemptress alongside Jesus.
1643 Felipe IV meets Sor Maria en route to battlefront, begins a twenty-two-year friendship and correspondence.
1644 Death of Isabel, Felipe IV's first wife. He consults Sor Maria on temporal and spiritual matters.
1645 Sor Maria completes writing Mystical City of God, then burns it on the order of a temporary confessor.
1646 Engagement of Felipe's son to Emperor Ferdinand III's daughter, Mariana of Austria. Death of prince.
1648 Treaty of Westphalia marks end of Thirty Years' War and significant losses for Spain.
1648 Sor Maria is falsely implicated in a plot against the Crown, adding to the Inquisition's list of concerns about her.
1649 Marriage of King Felipe IV to his son's former fiancee, Mariana of Austria, also Felipe's niece.
1650 Spanish Inquisition interrogates Maria of Agreda for eleven days and ultimately acquits her.
1655 Sor Maria begins second writing of Mystical City of God, completed in 1660.
1657 Sor Maria helps to negotiate the Treaty of the Pyrenees with France.
1665 May: death of Sor Maria de Jesus of Agreda. September: death of King Felipe IV.

Sor (Sister) María - Her appearance

"Our Venerable Mother Mary of Jesus of Agreda has a beautiful face, long rather than round, and big, dark, slanted eyes which are gentle and modest, a clear and spacious forehead, small eyebrows which are not too dark, not very full cheeks, a fresh mouth and full lips, a cute well-proportioned nose which is a little rounded at the end, a somewhat round chin with a gracious dimple. Her face is clear, peaceful, healthy and lightly tanned, calm and mild. She has clean white teeth, beautiful white hands with long fingers and her whole person and carriage gives a gentle and beautiful presence." - De las declaraciones de varias religiosas en los Procesos Ordinario y Apostólico.

'She was of beauty like to that of the full moon rising over quiet waters... and her tongue was like to the music of a mountain stream to the ears of a very thirsty man.' - A Papago Indian describing the 'Lady in Blue'

María de Jesús de Ágreda, aged 20. Painting in the Museum of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, Tepotzotlán, Mexico. María de Jesús de Ágreda. Anonymous painting on copper from about 1650-1700, Prado Museum, Madrid (catalogue no. P08045)

A painting recently discovered in Texas. It has the name 'Murillo' on the frame. Murillo (1617-1682) was a contemporary of Sor María and one of the greatest of Spanish artists and his favourite subject was the Immaculate Conception. Whether or not this painting is actually by Murillo (the Museo de Bellas Artas de Sevilla apparently thinks it could be either by him or 'of the school of'), I think that this is the picture that best matches her description (above).

Another portrait of María de Jesús de Ágreda, aged 36 (The Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, Ágreda).

Close up of a statue of María de Jesús de Ágreda outside the Provincial Government building, Calle Caballeros ('Road of the Knights'), Soria, Spain.

Mass in San Angelo, Texas. This image appears to be a photo of a photo. Note the face of a woman in the cloth banner of Maria de Agreda at the bottom-right of the picture. The image cannot have been super-imposed because it appears behind the 'S' of 'SOR MARIA'. The image cannot be a reflection because the material is matt (non-reflective) cloth. Put simply, this is an image of a person who wasn't there. Click on the picture to see a larger image. From http://mariadeagreda.webs.com (accessed 7/4/2015).

An enlargement of the face.

The cloth banner - made of non-reflective material.

Dominika van Santen, 'Top Model of the World' in 2005, who will play Sor María in a forthcoming film about Sor María's life. An amazing match, in my view.

Dominika van Santen

Sor (Sister) María's probable Jewish ancestry

Sor María appears to have been a descendant of Don Abraham Senior (1410/12-1493), a Jew who converted to Christianity in 1492 and took the name Fernan (Ferdinand) Perez Coronel after King Ferdinand of Aragon, who acted as godfather at his baptism. Don Abraham was Chief Rabbi and supreme magistrate of the Jews of Castile, and a favourite of Ferdinand of Aragon (1453-1516) and Isabella of Castile (1451-1504), whose marriage in 1469 he arranged. He was also Factor-General of the armies that drove the Moors from Spain and also appears to have been one the financial backers of Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage of discovery to America. One of the reasons Don Abraham adopted this noble Spanish name was that it had (or appears to have) become extinct on the death of the three daughters (Aldonza, Mayor and Maria) of Alfonso Fernandez Coronel, Lord of Aguilar, who was executed by King Peter the Cruel in 1353. Don Abraham may also have had a family connection to this Coronel family via his wife, Violante de Cabrera. If it is true that the Coronel family became extinct in 1353, and scholars assert that it is (Fedewa, 'María of Ágreda - Mystical Lady in Blue', p. 15), then anyone of the surname Coronel after that date must have been descended from Don Abraham Senior/Fernan Perez Coronel or other members of his family who converted at the same time. There are other pointers to her Jewish background, not least the fact that her mother wanted to marry a 'Christian husband of laudable demeanour' (Fedewa, p. 23). Logically, at least in my view, a Christian would never express a wish to marry a Christian because it would be automatically assumed that they would do so - but such an attitude would have been more understandable in a Converso (Jewish convert to Christianity or a descendant of such) anxious to escape his or her Jewish heritage .

Sor María was the daughter of Don Francisco Coronel and his wife Catalina de Arana, both of Ágreda, who were described as noble but humble and intensely religious. According to 'The Blue Nun - María Jesus de Ágreda' (Sharp, J. W., DesertUSA, January 2008, http://www.desertusa.com/mag08/jan08/ladyinblue.html): ‘She had descended on her father's side from a Jewish convert, or "converso", who had served as the chief tax collector for the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, after they had energized the Inquisition primarily for the purpose of persecuting the Jewish people in Spain.’ This is Don Abraham Senior. Professor José Vilahomat, Professor of Spanish at Hendrix College, Conway, Arizona, citing Kendrick, T D, ('Mary of Agreda: The Life and Legend of a Spanish Nun', Broadway House, London, 1967, pp. 8-11) states, in his 2004 paper, 'Sister Maria de Jesus Agreda: The authority of faith', that Francisco Coronel was 'of Jewish descent' - and the only Jewish Coronel family was the Senior/Coronel family. Marilyn Fedewa, author of 'Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue', in a 2004 article in MiGente Magazine ('Mel Gibson's Spanish Connection') states that 'Like her countrywoman Teresa of Avila, Agreda's own ancestors were Jewish.'

Interestingly, Sor María's mother, Catalina de Arana, bore the same surname as the mistress of Christopher Columbus, Beatriz Enríquez de Arana (1467-1536). Both of these de Arana families came from Arana in the Basque country so are quite likely to have been related. Harana/Valle de Arana is a municipality located in the province of Álava (Araba), in the autonomous community of the Basque Country, northern Spain. According to historian Rafael Ramírez de Arellano, Beatriz' father or stepfather was Pedro de Torquemada, of the same family as the famous Inquisitor, who was of Converso (Jewish) origin. This means that her mother was also probably of Converso origin. Columbus had two sons. By his wife, Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, he had a son, Diego (1474/1479/1480-1526), 2nd Admiral of the Indies, 2nd Viceroy of the Indies and 3rd Governor of the Indies, who married María de Toledo y Rojas, niece of the 2nd Duke of Alba, who was a cousin of King Ferdinand. By his mistress, Beatriz, Columbus had a son, Ferdinand Columbus (1488-1539). Columbus left his fortune, which presumably included his right (granted to him by the Spanish Crown) to one-tenth of the revenues of the lands he discovered, to Beatriz but she never claimed the inheritance. Beatriz was introduced to Columbus by her cousin, Diego de Arana (1468-1493), who accompanied Columbus on his first voyage and who became the first governor of the first settlement in the New World (La Navidad, Haiti, which was rediscovered in 1977).

Beatriz Enríquez de Arana and Christopher Columbus.

San Vincente de Arana.

The Valley of Arana from near the Hermitage of St. Theodosia.

The Hermitage of St. Theodosia (map here).

María de Jesús de Ágreda's family tree, with her parents (Francisco and Catalina) at the bottom, her brothers (Francisco and Joseph) above that and María (left, with quill pen) and her sister (Jerónima) above that. The entire family took up the religious life and turned their house (called a castle in some books but actually a small mansion) into a convent.

Palacio de los Castejones, Ágreda. Sor María's great-great-grandmother was a María Castejone.

Palacio de los Castejones, Ágreda, from the air.

Sor (Sister) María's early life and youth

'It was often repeated in Ágreda that Teresa of Avila had prophesied that the town would produce a most fragrant flower for the garden of the Lord.' - Colahan, Clark Andrew, 'The Visions of Sor María de Ágreda: Writing Knowledge and Power', University of Arizona Press, 1994, p. 13.

St. Teresa of Avila by Manuel Gómez-Moreno González

The only known portrait of St. Teresa of Avila from life.

'Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are his body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.'
- St. Teresa of Avila (attributed)

'Christ does not force our will. He takes only what we give him. But he does not give himself entirely until he sees that we yield ourselves entirely to him.' - St. Teresa of Avila

'It is love alone that gives worth to all things.' - St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila's (1515-1582) last confessor, Diego de Yepes (1549-1613), Bishop of Tarazona, who was also confessor to King Philip II, came to know Maria Coronel as the Bishop of the diocese in which she lived. He was so impressed with her spiritual understanding that he confirmed her at the age of four. In 1615 María Coronel's mother, Catalina, had a vision in which God commanded her to convert her house into a convent and also commanded that the whole family should take up the religious life. She immediately went to see her confessor, but he met her on the road on his way to see her and told her that he had had the same vision. The place of their meeting in Ágreda is now marked with a rooftop cross. In 1618 María's father, Francisco, donated his property to the church and the conversion of the family home into a convent began. The first mass in the convent was held in December of that year. In early 1619 María, her mother and her sister took their vows as cloistered nuns of the Order of the Immaculate Conception (Conceptionist Order) and María adopted the name Sor (Sister) María de Jesús. Francisco Coronel entered the Franciscan Monastery of San Antonio de Nalda.

Sor María's life as a nun was one of regular prayer, rigorous discipline and work; she slept for only two hours a day and ate only one meal a day, which never included meat. In addition, she fasted on bread and water three times a week. The hallmarks of her daily life were austerity, devotion, humility and self-mortification but also sympathy, kindness and generosity to her sister nuns and to the poor and needy, who the nuns fed daily. Her life was exemplified by an overwhelming love of God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary and a feeling of complete worthlessness (she often referred to herself as a 'vile wormlet'). In 1620 she experienced her first religious ecstasy during which she levitated (she was not aware of doing so but she was being watched surreptitiously). She later learned, to her complete mortification, that her fellow nuns, and even visitors to the convent, had been regularly observing her during her religious ecstasies and that they had even gone so far as to make a hole in the door of her cell, which they had used to show that, while levitating, she could be blown across her cell by a gentle draft of air. She prayed for the cessation of her ecstasies, which was granted. In 1622 she was investigated by the Church, which exonerated her (she was also examined twice by the Inquisition in 1635 and in 1650, as described below). It was in this period from 1620 to 1623 that most of her bilocation visits to the American South-West occurred, as described below, though they continued with less frequency until 1631.

In 1627 she was elected Abbess of the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, Ágreda, with special dispensation from Pope Urban VIII due to her age (she was 25); she held this position for the rest of her life, apart from a three year sabbatical from 1652 to 1655. A new and larger convent was completed on the edge of the village in 1631 with the financial support of local people, the local nobility and many other benefactors; this convent is still occupied by the nuns of the order today. When elected Abbess she did not feel worthy or capable of the position, so she prayed to the Virgin Mary who replied 'My daughter, do not be disturbed in thy heart... I will be thy Mother and Superior... Obey me, and I will favour thee and will continue to be attentive to thy affliction.' Thus the Virgin Mary became Mother Superior of the Convent.

There are four noteworthy aspects of her subsequent life:

  • her writings, including her major work ‘The Mystical City of God’, a biography of the Virgin Mary;
  • her bilocation visits to the American South-West;
  • her miracles;
  • her relationship and correspondence with King Philip IV of Spain and her influence on events of the time.

After her death we need to look at:

  • the beatification process;
  • the incorruptibility of her body;
  • her significance in the theology of the Roman Catholic church;
  • her significance in the history of Spain, the United States of America and the world.

We also need to consider the views of her detractors and, ultimately, to assess what we can believe about her.

An old illustration of The Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, Ágreda

Ágreda today, with the convent on the left.

Moncayo mountain from Ágreda.

Statue of María de Jesús de Ágreda outside the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception in Ágreda, Soria, Spain.

The altar in the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception in Ágreda, Soria, Spain. The panel in the front of the altar table shows María de Jesús de Ágreda at her desk writing 'The Mystical City of God' at the dictation of the Virgin Mary. Behind the altar María de Jesús de Ágreda stands beside and below the Virgin Mary in a sunburst.

The altar in the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception in Ágreda, Soria, Spain. The glass sarcophagus of María de Jesús de Ágreda can just be seen on the right.

Coat of arms of Agreda - 'I am the true vine'. (John 15:1). Agreda is known as the 'city of three cultures' since Christians, Jews and Muslims lived peaceably together there.

'The Mystical City of God' - 'the most extraordinary and the most astonishing book that ever issued from mortal hands'

María de Jesús de Ágreda was the authoress of the 8-volume ‘The Mystical City of God’, a life of the Virgin Mary. In his beautiful introduction to the work, Father Laurent speaks of María de Jesús de Ágreda as follows: 'At thirty-five years of age, in one of her ecstatic visions, she receives from Heaven the order to write the history of the Mother of God. Through humility she declines the honor, thinking herself unworthy; she seeks to avoid that mission which she judges herself incapable of accomplishing, but the will of the Lord being clearly manifested, she obeys as a submissive daughter, and writes that admirable book The Mystical City. Divine inspiration is impressed on every page. Reading it we become convinced that it was only in the heavenly regions into which she was ravished, that she could have acquired the knowledge of the most sublime mysteries, the revelation of the most adorable and ineffable designs of the Most High on the august Mary. It is under the direction of Mary that she retraces the history of the mortal life of the Queen of Heaven, so that this work, written by a poor girl, destitute of human or acquired science and living in the obscurity of the cloister, is, perhaps, the most extraordinary and astonishing which has ever come from the hand of a human creature. The author unhesitatingly touches on the highest mysteries of religion, and explains them with rare clearness. She develops without embarrassment, and with wonderful facility, Catholic dogma and the most difficult passages of the Scriptures; sacred chronology is as familiar to her as to the most eminent doctors; she reveals the most hidden ways of Providence; sacred theology, sublime philosophy, knowledge of natural sciences, persuasive eloquence, all are found there, even to neatness, correctness, sublimity, strength and elegance of style.' (Introduction to the Life of the Ven. M. Mary of Agreda, p. 16, 17).

‘The Mystical City of God’ was first published in 1670, five years after Sor María's death, and has since been republished some 250 times in over 80 editions in a dozen or so languages, including Arabic and Tamil, though the sources vary on the precise numbers; it has been read by millions of Roman Catholics around the world. The book was not translated into English until the early 20th century on account of Protestant hostility towards Marian theology, which is evident in the writings of Protestant authors. In addition to recounting the life of the Virgin Mary and revealing many previously unknown details of the life of Christ, the book propounded three already existing major doctrines which are discussed further below; that is, the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary (which was highly controversial at the time but which became church dogma in 1854), the Virgin Mary as Co-Redemptress and Mediatrix of All Graces (which has not yet been accepted by the Church but which has wide support amongst senior Roman Catholic clergy, including over 500 Cardinals and Bishops) and Papal Infallibility (which became church dogma in 1870). The book was and remains controversial and was placed on the Church's Index of Forbidden Books in June 1681 as a result of the machinations of Spanish 'Maculists' (that is, those who opposed the 'Immaculist' doctrine of the Immaculate Conception) but the ban was removed in November of the same year following an uproar in Spain in which the King and Queen of Spain appealed directly to Pope Innocent XI. Today the official position of the church is that the book may be read by the faithful. The book has received the personal approval of many senior members of the Roman Catholic Church, including six Popes, but, as stated, has not received the official approval of the Church (but see below) because, according to a ruling of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1999, the view of the Virgin Mary in the book contrasts with that of Sacred Scripture and the Mariology of Vatican II, even though the same ruling stated that the book is free of doctrinal error.

Fr. Peter Damian Mary Fehlner F.I. talks about Venerable Mother Mary of Agreda's book, 'The Mystical City of God'.

María de Jesús de Ágreda was the authoress of the 8-volume ‘The Mystical City of God’ (here in four volumes; volume 1 contains books 1 and 2; volume 2 contains books 3 and 4; volume 3 contains books 5 and 6 and volume 4 contains books 7 and 8).

Sor María's signature

It seems to me that everyone who has examined (that is, not simply read) 'The Mystical City of God' in any serious way has done so in an attempt to assess the extent to which the book conforms with Holy Scripture and sacred tradition, and they approve or disapprove of the book depending on the result of their assessment. This approach seems to me to put the emphasis in the wrong place; the question is not so much whether the book conforms to Holy Scripture or sacred tradition where it can be compared to them, but how to treat those matters in the book that are absent from Holy Scripture and sacred tradition and so cannot be compared to them. This is what brings us to the key issue, which is 'How can we assess something in the book (such as a detail of the Virgin Mary's life) when there is nothing in Holy Scripture or sacred tradition to assess it against?' How can we tell whether the thing is true or not? My reasoning is as follows. Sor María was fully aware that anything she wrote about the life of the Virgin Mary that could not be found in Holy Scripture or in the accepted sacred tradition of the Church would be challenged and rejected as false, or, at least, not accepted (officially) as true - and this has happened of course.* So why would she write something that she knew would not be accepted? Because she knew it to be true - and she knew it to be true because she knew where it came from as a matter of certain fact. She was as certain on this point as a person is when they stub their toe on a rock. This, in my view, is the test of truth. Truthful people tell the truth even if they know it will not be accepted because they know they are telling the truth and, as truthful people, they have no choice in the matter. In this sense a statement by a truthful person proves itself. A thing is not necessarily true simply because it is stated, but we know that because it was stated by a truthful person in circumstances where it was obvious the thing would not be accepted, it was believed to be true by the person who stated it. There is no other explanation. So we have reached 'first base'; we can conclude that Sor María believed that she was telling the truth when she wrote 'The Mystical City of God'. Any suggestion of deliberate falsehood can be dismissed.

*It is interesting to compare the treatment of Sor María's revelations with those of St. Bridget of Sweden. Both include historical details of the life of Christ not found in Scripture, yet Sor María's revelations have not been accepted while St. Bridget's have. How can this be, given that there can be no more proof of the latter then the former? Benedict XVI, in his General Audience of 27 October 2010 said: 'The value of St Bridget's Revelations, sometimes the object of criticism Venerable John Paul II explained in his Letter Spes Aedificandi: “The Church, which recognized Bridget's holiness without ever pronouncing on her individual revelations, has accepted the overall authenticity of her interior experience”. Indeed, reading these Revelations challenges us on many important topics. For example, the description of Christ's Passion, with very realistic details, frequently recurs.'

Believers and unbelievers can agree up to this point, but beyond it they part company. An unbeliever will say that even if Sor Maria believed as a matter of absolute fact that what she wrote came from God, it cannot have done so because God does not exist. A believer, on the other hand, will say that it is through the pure in heart that God communicates with us and that the divine origin of a message can be determined by the vessel through which the message is communicated. The very purity of the pure in heart is their armour (and ours) against falsehood and the guarantee of the authenticity of a message communicated through them. This is not a circular argument because the purity of a person's life can be judged by other means (that is, without reference to the thing we are trying to assess the truth of), as happened with Sor María, and the fact that she was made a Venerable of the Church proves that she is accepted as having lived a life of heroic virtue - in spite of reservations within the Church concerning 'The Mystical City of God'. But this does not satisfy the unbeliever; he is still left with his lack of belief which, to him, brings the whole edifice crashing down. Can we help him? In short, can we make the unbeliever believe? We cannot, in my view, prove the divine source of 'The Mystical City of God' to an unbeliever directly because to do so depends upon belief (belief in God and a belief that God uses the pure in heart to communicate with us), but if we can prove that Sor María did things that can only have been done through divine (non-human) intervention then we have proved to the unbeliever not only that God exists but that, because she did such things, Sor María was an instrument of God's purpose - and that, as such, what she wrote in 'The Mystical City of God' must be true in its turn. This is where Sor María's bilocations come into the picture. If we can prove the truth of the bilocations then the truth of 'The Mystical City of God' must follow. So there we are; all we have to do is to prove to the unbeliever that a 17th century nun bilocated between Spain and the American South-West - over 500 times. Sounds simple enough. It follows that the Church's assessment of 'The Mystical City of God' depends upon its assessment of the truth of her bilocations. Perhaps this is partly why the bilocations took place; they are the means by which the truth of 'The Mystical City of God' can be proved because they can be proved by reference to human witnesses in accordance with human standards of proof; that is, the standards used in a court of law; faith is not involved. Of course, the Church applies this logic to miracles as well because it only accepts that a miracle has happened when something, such as a cure, is scientifically proved to have happened when there is no scientific explanation for it. We must adopt the same approach to Sor Maria's bilocations. 'It may be objected that the Bible contains historical books, and that thus God may sometimes wish to reveal certain facts in religious history to us exactly. That doubtless is true, when there is question of facts which are necessary or useful as a basis for religion, in which case the revelation is accompanied by proofs that guarantee its accuracy.' ('Private Revelations', The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia). Perhaps Sor Maria's bilocations are the proofs.

It therefore seems to me that the beatification process for Sor Maria has, in effect, put the cart before the horse. It has proceeded by examining 'The Mystical City of God' first but because that process has met an obstruction, as described above and discussed below, it has not moved on to consider the issue of her bilocations (which I suspect the church considers to be so extraordinary that it would be ridiculed if it accepts that they happened* - but ridicule and mockery never stopped Christ). My view is that her bilocations should be examined first and, if confirmed to be true, that fact should be used to assess the truth of 'The Mystical City of God'. In short, the logic is that if Sor Maria was a vehicle of the divine will in her bilocations then it can be safely concluded that she was also a vehicle of the divine will in her authorship of 'The Mystical City of God'.

*Her bilocations are not mentioned at all in the relevant Catholic Encyclopedia article.

Sor María's literary works include;

  • 'Face of the Earth and Map of the Spheres' (c1616);
  • 'Spiritual Garden for the Life of the Soul' (1621-26)
  • 'Ladder to Perfection' (1627);
  • 'Litany to Our Lady' (prior to 1631);
  • 'Laws of the Spouse I' (1634-7);
  • ''The Mystical City of God' (First writing - later destroyed on the instructions of a temporary confessor) (1637-45);
  • 'Laws of the Spouse II' (1641-2);
  • Correspondence with Philip IV (1643-65);
  • 'Spiritual Exercises for Retreats' (1647-50);
  • 'Sabbaticals' (1652-55);
  • 'The Mystical City of God' (Second writing 1655-60);
  • 'Some Doctrinal Events and Teachings for the Soul I' (1660);
  • 'Some Doctrinal Events and Teachings for the Soul II' (1665);
  • Autobiography of early life (now included 'The Mystical City of God') (Written in her last years and not completed).

María de Jesús de Ágreda writing 'The Mystical City of God' at the dictation of the Virgin Mary (from a painting in the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, Ágreda, Soria, Spain).

María de Jesús de Ágreda writing 'The Mystical City of God' at the dictation of the Virgin Mary (from a bookplate).

'The Virgin dictates 'The Mystical City of God' to the Venerable Sister María de Jesús de Ágreda.'

María de Jesús de Ágreda's desk.

'When Philip IV, King of Spain, heard that Mother Mary of Jesus had written a life of the Virgin Mary, he requested a copy from her. At first she was unwilling, but finally yielded to his entreaty. He was astonished at the depth of doctrine it contained, and submitted it to eminent theologians for examination. One of them said that "he would wager upon a whole room full of theologians, that this woman possessed the divine science."' - Doctor Carlos E. Castañeda, Catholic historian.

'Whoever shall read this work with good will shall become learned; and whosoever shall 'pray' and meditate on it, will desire sanctity.' - Rev. Andrew Mendo, S.J., Professor of the University of Salamanca, quoted by Doctor Carlos E. Castañeda, Catholic historian.

'P.D. Diegus de Silva, Abbot of the order of St. Benedict and Bishop of Guardia, delegated by King Philip IV to examine the first edition of the Mystical City of God, seems to us to sum up the total of all these praises in this sentence: "With the exception of Sacred Scripture, the heavenly wisdom which it contains has never before been revealed to mortals."' - Doctor Carlos E. Castañeda, Catholic historian.

Notable also is the high recommendation of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Apostolic Legate and Primate of Germany, in 1885: 'According to the decrees of Pope Innocent XI and Clement XI the book known as 'Ciudad de Dios' written by the Venerable Servant of God, Maria de Jesus, may be read by all the faithful.' and 'A number of episcopal approbations, the recommendations of four renowned universities, namely, of Toulouse, Salamanca, Alcala and Louvain, and of prominent members of different orders, coincide in extolling the above-named work. The learned and pious Cardinal D'Aguirre says that he considers all the studies of fifty years of his previous life as of small consequence in comparison with the doctrines he found in this book, which in all things are in harmony with the Holy Scriptures, the Holy Fathers and Councils of the Church. The Venerable Superior-General of St. Sulpice, Abbé Emery, adds: "Only since I read the revelations of Mary of Agreda do I properly know Jesus and His Holy Mother." We therefore do not hesitate in granting our episcopal approbation to "Ciudad de Dios" and wish to recommend it to the faithful and especially to our clergy.'

In 1900 a devout lay woman sought to spread the "science of the saints" by publishing some verbatim extracts from 'The City of God'. She informed Pope Leo XIII of the project, and the great Pontiff not only gave her the Apostolic Blessing but, amazingly, allowed her book to be "printed by the presses of the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda in Rome". A few months later it was observed by a Canadian diocesan journal: "The reserve which is ordinarily maintained on the subject of revelations* really no longer has any reason to exist in relation to The Mystical City, since His Holiness Leo XIII has been so good as gladly to encourage the project of spreading among the faithful the science of the saints which is contained in that heavenly life of the Mother of God."

*The Roman Catholic Church has a policy of not issuing rulings on the validity of private revelations, so the Church never requires belief in private revelations; it never goes further than saying that they are probable and worthy of belief.

His Holiness Pope Pius XI, on 29 April 1929, told the publisher of 'The City of God' in a private address: "You have done a great work in honor of the Mother of God. She will never permit herself to be outdone in generosity and will know how to reward a thousandfold. We grant the Apostolic Benediction to all readers and promoters of 'The City of God.'"

‘The Mystical City of God’' was one of the two main non-Biblical sources used in the production of Mel Gibson's 2004 film, 'The Passion of the Christ'. The other source was Anne Catherine Emmerich's 'The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ'. 'A controversial new movie directed by Mel Gibson, 'The Passion of the Christ,' . . . is likely to be the most watched Passion play in history. . . . To tell his story, Gibson has amalgamated the four Gospel accounts and was reportedly inspired by the visions of two nuns: Mary of Agreda (1602-1665) of Spain and Anne Catherine of Emmerich (1774-1824). . .' (Jon Meacham, Newsweek, 16 Feb 2004).

'Other than the Bible, ['The Mystical City of God' is] probably the most important work ever written.' - Janet McGee Saunders, 2011 Amazon.com review of 'María de Ágreda: Mystical Lady in Blue'.

Sor (Sister) María's 500 or more bilocation visits to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas - 'unparalled in the entire history of the world'

Apart from her authorship of 'The Mystical City of God', Sor María is best known for having instructed certain Indian tribes of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas in the Roman Catholic faith, including the Jumanos (or Humanos), by means of bilocation (being in two places at once). She described herself bilocating to America over 500 times, sometimes several times a day, between 1620 and 1631, though mainly between 1620 and 1623. She never left her convent in Spain but was able to accurately describe many exact details of her visits to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, including people and events which could only have been known to someone who had actually been there - and which were independently confirmed by such people. These people included Father Alonso de Benavides, as described below, who wrote that her descriptions of the area and people, which he knew well as head (Custos) of the missions in New Mexico, 'were so exact that a person who had been there for many years and had travelled over the entire country could not have answered with more truth and sincerity'. One of the people she described meeting was a one-eyed Indian chief called Tuerto, who was known to Father Alonso de Benavides. Records of the period also describe Tuerto's recollections of the 'Lady in Blue', which means that there is two-way confirmation. In addition, on many well-documented occasions over many years (both during her life and long after her death) across several American states, various Indian tribes independently described the visits of a 'Lady in Blue' (or sometimes a beautiful white woman) who came down from the sky, who clearly belonged to the Conceptionist Order (from her clothes, which included the famous blue cloak) and who was young and beautiful (María was 18 at the time her bilocation visits started in 1620 and she was described by de Benavides as being 'handsome of face, very fair in colour, with a slight rosy tinge and large black eyes').

'That Agreda really and truly visited America many times is attested to in the logs of the Spanish Conquistadors, the French explorers, and the identical accounts of many Indian tribes. Every authentic history of the Southwest of the United States records this mystic phenomenon, unparalleled in the entire history of the world.... Of the two great landings in America in 1620 - the Pilgrims in the north at Plymouth, Massachusetts, and Agreda in the south - the mystical one has, and will yet have, far greater influence upon the history of the world.' - Doctor Carlos E. Castañeda, Catholic historian.

'Although the abbess said her last visitation to the New World was in 1631, the mysterious Lady in Blue was not quickly forgotten in Texas. In 1690 a missionary working with the Tejas Indians heard the legend [in fact, not a legend at all but a simple statement of fact as described below]. In the 1840s a mysterious woman in blue reportedly traveled the Sabine River valley aiding malaria victims, and in the twentieth century her apparition was reported as recently as World War II.' (Donald E. Chipman, 'Agreda, Maria de Jesus de', Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association).

'To this day, beautiful legends, stories and beliefs are still told about [Sor María], and every Mexican cemetery in the state has its quota of blue crosses and blue fences around the grove, and blue coffins are still in popular use.' (Jovita González, 'Catholic Heroines of Texas', Southern Messenger, 1936).

'You can't explain it, but you can't explain it away.' (Gus Clemens, Clemens & Associates, San Angelo, Texas)

The Ceremony of the Crosses, San Angelo, Texas in 2010, at the site on the Concho River where the first mission in Texas (to the Jumanos) was established in 1632.

María de Jesús de Ágreda (María Coronel y Arana) converting the Indians of Texas/New Mexico.

María de Jesús de Ágreda (María Coronel y Arana) converting the Indians of Texas/New Mexico.

The original blue cloak of María de Jesús de Ágreda in a glass case in the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception in Ágreda, Soria, Spain. Many miracles have been attributed the cloak.

Main picture - embroidery design of the Navajo Indians of New Mexico, inset - example of an embroidery design by María de Jesús de Ágreda in the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception in Ágreda, Soria, Spain, based on designs she saw during her bilocations.

An altar cloth created by María de Jesús de Ágreda showing flora and fauna that she encountered during her bilocation visits to New Mexico and Texas. The cloth shows what appears to be a Hoopoe, which does not occur in that part of the world. However, there is a bird native to that area called the Northern Flicker, which (uniquely for a woodpecker) also frequently feeds on the ground like a Hoopoe and which could easily be mistaken for a Hoopoe by a non-expert.

The main places associated with Sor María are shown on the map below.

  • The Spanish initially encountered the Jumanos in two expeditions of 1535 and 1582 near La Junta de Los Rios on the Rio Grande, where they seem to have occupied more or less permanent dwellings. Nonetheless, they seem to have been peripatetic and their movements were probably dictated by the migrations of the buffalo herds, by the rains (or absence of them), by trade and by pressure from other tribes.
  • According to Marilyn Fedewa ('María of Ágreda - Mystical Lady in Blue') the Jumanos who travelled to Isleta, New Mexico, in 1629, and who first recounted the story of the 'Lady in Blue', seem to have come from an area to the north of the Palo Duro Canyon, east of Amarillo, Texas, between the South Canadian River and the north fork of the Red River (part of the Lano Estacado), and this would appear to be where the missionaries went in 1629 as described below - 'one hundred leagues towards the east [from Isleta]', according to de Benavides. The Jumanos later abandoned this area, probably as a result of pressure from other, more war-like, tribes such as the Apache and Commanche. Other sources say that the Jumanos who visited Isleta in 1629 came from the area of San Angelo, Texas (see next entry) and that this was the place they returned to with the missionaries in that year. Another source (Beulah Mullen Karney, 'Mary of Agreda') says that the Jumanos were at Wichita Falls, Texas, but this is considerably more than one hundred leagues from Isleta.
  • In 1632 a further mission was established on the Concho River at San Angelo, Texas, but this only lasted for 6 months because it was considered to be too far from the safety of the New Mexico missions.
  • Sor María also visited the Jumanos at Gran Quivera, Quarai and Abo, now within the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, which was itself abandoned in the later 17th century as a result of attacks by the Apaches. Subsequently the Jumanos seem to have been absorbed into other tribes, such as the Wichita and Apache, although there are moves afoot to revive the tribe as the Jumano-Apache. Those who identify themselves as Jumanos still revere the 'Lady in Blue'.
  • The Sonoran desert of Arizona/Mexico is where Sor María is reported to have visited the Papagos.
  • Weches, Texas, was where, in 1690, some 25 years after Sor María's death, a Teja chief told Father Damian Massanet that his mother and other elders of his tribe had seen the 'Lady in Blue' in their youth; he asked for a blue cloth for a burial shroud for his mother because they wished to be like her.
  • According to the response by Mission Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California (just south of San Francisco) to a survey sent to the Spanish Colonies in America in 1812 by Don Ciríaco González Carvajal, Secretary of the Department of Overseas Colonies (Maynard Geiger O.F.M., 'As The Padres Saw Them'), or possibly inquiries made by the Council of Regency in 1810, there was a tradition amongst the Ohlone tribe of California that 'in some former time an alien woman came to this region'; that is Santa Cruz, California. The missionaries identified this woman as Sor María.
  • Yuma, Arizona, is where, in 1699, Captain Mateo Mange was told by Indians that Sor María had twice been martyred (shot with arrows) by the tribes of the Colorado River many years before, as described below.
  • San Antonio de Padua, California is where Sor Maria is reported to have evangelized the Salinan Indians in the 1600s.
  • The Sabine River, East Texas, is where Sor María reputedly helped to nurse flood survivors in the 1840s (Francis Abernathy, 'Legendary Ladies of Texas', p. 13).
  • Caborca, Sonora, Mexico is where Sor María reputedly intervened in the Battle of Caborca of 1857 to save a church and citizens of the town of Caborca inside from attacking American (privateer) forces (Dee Strickland Johnson, 'Arizona Herstory', p. 182).
  • 'It may interest the reader to learn that, according to Mr. Will Robinson, a journalist of New Mexico, the Navajo Indians in 1935 and 1936 were excited over a predicted return of the Blue Lady. They refused to divulge the source of their information, but declared with complete assurance that a visit by the Blue Lady was impending. Whether they still await her, we do not know.' ('Legends of the Spanish Southwest', Cleve Hallenbeck & Juanita H. Williams, The Arthur H. Clark Company, Glendale, California, U.S.A., 1938, p. 314).
  • Sor María now lives in underground passages beneath The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas, according to legend (De Zavala, Adina, 'History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions In and Around San Antonio', San Antonio: Privately published by the author, 1917, p. 61).

Thus reports of Sor María stretched from the San Francisco area of California, across Arizona, across New Mexico, across Texas to the border with Louisiana and down into the Sonora region of northern Mexico; an area over 1500 miles across, crossing states or regions covering almost 900,000 square miles, which is substantially larger than the whole of France and approaching twice the size of Spain - an enormous area. The fact that reports of the 'Lady in Blue' stretched across such a vast area over such a length of time (several hundred years) is astonishing and probably unique in history - only exceeded by the Virgin Mary herself.

Map showing the principal places associated with Sor María.

Map showing the area (shaded yellow) in the Texas 'Panhandle' to the east of Amarillo between the Canadian River and the Red River.

Sor (Sister) María in New Mexico

'By 1626, reports from New Mexico were relaying stories of Native Americans arriving at missions because a "Lady in Blue" had told them to go and speak to the priests at those missions. One location said to have been visited by this "Lady in Blue" was the pueblo of Las Humanas, now known as Gran Quivira. She was also reported to have repeatedly "visited" a group of refugee Jumanos near the mission of Cuarac (Quarai). With the arrival of additional missionaries in 1629, Gran Quivira became a visita (satellite mission without a resident Father) of the Abo Mission.' (National Park Service website). See also 'Spanish Missions in New Mexico'.

The ruins at Gran Quivera (Las Humanas) (map).

Gran Quivira, a panorama looking to the West towards the Chupadera Mesa.

Chupadera Mesa landscape.

Ruins at Quarai (map).

Ruins at Abo (map).

Map showing ruins of Gran Quivera, Quarai and Abo.

A service at Quarai in 2012 celebrating Sor María's visits to the area and praying for her beatification.

One specific occasion when Sor María visited New Mexico was when she visited the church of Nuestra Señora de Perpetuo Socorro (Our Lady of Perpetual Succour), Socorro, New Mexico, on 3 Aug 1626 (the church is now called San Miguel, which should not to be confused with San Miguel in Santa Fe, New Mexico). After he visited Sor María in Ágreda in 1631 Father Alonso Benevides wrote in his 'Memorial': “This blessed mother told me that she had been present with me at the baptism of the Pizos (Piro Indians) and she recognized me as the one she had seen there. Likewise, she had helped Fray Cristóbal de Quirós with some baptisms, giving [a] minute description of his person and face.” So Sor María was able to describe in detail a specific person she had seen in New Mexico (Father Cristóbal de Quirós) at a specific place at a specific time to someone (Father Alonso de Benavides) who was actually with that person at that place at that time.

Nuestra Señora de Perpetuo Socorro (Our Lady of Perpetual Succour), Socorro, New Mexico, now San Miguel - the oldest church in the United States (founded 1598).

An image of Nuestra Señora de Perpetuo Socorro (Our Lady of Perpetual Succour) in the church.

Landscape to the South-West of Socorro.

Sor (Sister) María and the setting up of the missions in Texas

According to a 1972 paper ('The Texians and the Texans - The Spanish Texans') by the Institute of Texan Culture of the University of Texas at San Antonio: 'Maria told her confessor that she had often been transported to New Mexico while in a trance, and that she had preached to the Indians of a kingdom with a name something like 'Titlas'* or 'Ticlas' not far from the land of the Jumanos. This was reported to the newly appointed Archbishop sailing for Mexico in the spring of 1628. He, in turn, wrote a letter to the Franciscans of New Mexico, telling them to be on the lookout for such a kingdom. Nearly all the explorations eastward from New Mexico [i.e. into Texas], the first missions in Texas and even the name "Texas" itself were inspired by the Franciscans faith in the revelations of this "Lady in Blue".'

*See further her letter of 15 May 1631 to the missionaries in America (quoted in full below) in which she wrote 'And so I say that this is what befell me in the provinces of New Mexico, Quivira, the Jumanos, and other nations, although these were not the first kingdoms where I was taken by the will of God. By the hand and aid of His Angels I was carried wherever they took me, and I saw and did all that I have told the father, and other things which, being numerous, it is not possible to narrate in order to enlighten all those nations in our Holy Catholic Faith. The first ones where I went are toward the east, I believe, and one must travel in that direction to reach them from the kingdom of Quivira. I call these kingdoms with reference to our way of speaking, Titlas, Chillescas, and Caburcos, which have not been discovered.' It would appear that the discovery of Texas is the only occasion in the history of the world when the people who discovered a place were told the name and location of the place they should look for.**

**'There are cases in which we can be certain that a revelation is Divine. (1) God can give this certainty to the person who receives the revelation (at least during it), by granting an insight and an evidence so compelling as to exclude all possibility of doubt. We can find an analogy in the natural order: our senses are subject to many illusions, and yet we frequently perceive clearly that we have not been deceived. (2) At times others can be equally certain of the revelation thus vouchsafed. For instance, the Prophets of the Old Testament gave indubitable signs of their mission; otherwise they would not have been believed. There were always false prophets, who deceived some of the people but, inasmuch as the faithful were counselled by Holy Writ to distinguish the false from the true, it was possible so to distinguish. One incontrovertible proof is the working of a miracle, if it be wrought for this purpose and circumstances show this to be so. A prophecy realized is equally convincing, when it is precise and cannot be the result of chance or of a conjecture of the evil spirit.' (Catholic Encyclopedia, 'Private Revelations').

Mary of Agreda's Letter to the Missionaries in America of 1631:

'I obey what Your Reverence, our Father General; our father, Fray Sebastian Marcilla, Provincial of this holy Province of Burgos; our father, Fray Francisco Andres de la Torre, who is the one who governs my soul; and Your Reverence, my Father Custodian for New Mexico, have asked me to tell in your name. That is, whether that which is contained in these notebooks is what I have said, discussed, consulted, and talked about to Your Reverence concerning what the mercy of God and His just and immutable decisions have worked in my simple heart. Perhaps He chooses the most insignificant and unworthy individual to show the strength of His mighty hand so that the living may know that all things derive from the hand of the Father of Light dwelling on high, and that we attain everything through the power and strength of the Almighty.

And so I say that this is what befell me in the provinces of New Mexico, Quivira, the Jumanos, and other nations, although these were not the first kingdoms where I was taken by the will of God. By the hand and aid of His Angels I was carried wherever they took me, and I saw and did all that I have told the father, and other things which, being numerous, it is not possible to narrate in order to enlighten all those nations in our Holy Catholic Faith.

The first ones where I went are toward the east, I believe, and one must travel in that direction to reach them from the kingdom of Quivira. I call these kingdoms with reference to our way of speaking, Titlas, Chillescas, and Caburcos, which have not been discovered. To reach them it seems to me that one will meet with great obstacles on account of the many kingdoms which intervene, inhabited by very warlike people who will not allow the passing through their territory of the Christian Indians from New Mexico, whom they distrust. Especially they distrust the friars of our holy father, Saint Francis, because the Devil has deceived them, making them believe that the antidote is the poison, and that they will become vassals and slaves if they become Christians, when the opposite is true, since it constitutes their liberty and happiness in this world.

It seems to me that the way to succeed would be to send friars of our Father, Saint Francis, and for their security and protection to require that they be accompanied by soldiers of good repute and habits, men who forbear patiently the hardships that may come upon them. By example and patience everything can be endured, as the example helps very much. By discovering these provinces great work will have been done in the vineyard of the Lord.

The events which I have reported happened to me from the year 1620 to the present year, 1631, in the kingdoms of Quivira and the Jumanos, which were the last ones where I was transported and which, Your Reverence says, were discovered by the very persons of those holy friars through their good intelligence. I entreat, advise, and urge them in behalf of the Lord to labor in such a blessed task, praising the Most High for their good fortune and bliss, which are great indeed. For the Divine Majesty appoints you His treasurers and disbursers of His Precious Blood and places in your hands what it can purchase, which is the souls of so many Indians, who, lacking light and someone to furnish it to them continue in darkness and blindness, and are deprived of the most holy and desirable fruits of the immaculate, tender, and delightful law and of the blessing of eternal salvation.

The said friars must outdo themselves in this field of the Lord to please the Most High, for the harvest is abundant and the workers are few and they must exercise the greatest possible charity with these creatures of the Lord, made in His image and likeness with a rational soul in order to enable them to know Him.

Do not allow, my dear fathers and lords that the wishes of the Lord and His holy will be frustrated and permitted to fail because of the many sufferings and hardships, for the Almighty will reply that He has His delights and joys with the sons of men. Since God created these Indians as apt and competent beings to serve and worship Him, it is not just that they lack what we, the rest of the Christian faithful, possess and enjoy. Rejoice then, my dear fathers, for the Lord has given you the opportunity, occasion, and good fortune of the Apostles. Do not let it go to waste because of considerations of difficulty. Remember your duty to obey the Almighty and to extend and plant His holy Law regardless of the hardships and persecutions you may suffer following the example of your Master.

I can assure Your Reverences that I know with all exactness and light that the Blessed Ones envy you, if envy could exist among them, which is impossible, but I am stating it thus, according to our mode of expression. If they could forsake their eternal bliss to accompany you in those conversions, they would do it. This does not surprise me, for, as they see in the Lord, who is the main cause and object of their bliss and the mirror in which all recognize themselves, the special bliss enjoyed by the Apostles and for which they stand out over the other Saints on account of what they have suffered for the conversion of souls. For this reason they would leave the enjoyment of God for the conversion of one soul. This will be a reason for Your Reverences to avail yourselves of the opportunity that offers itself to you.

I confess that if I could buy it with my blood, life, or cruel sufferings, I would do it, for I envy your good fortune. Because, although the Most High grants me to make this labor in my life, it is not on a course where I suffer as much as Your Reverences, nor do I merit anything because of my imperfections. But since I am helpless, I offer with all my heart and soul, to help those of this holy community with prayers and pious exercises. I beg my kind friars to accept my good will and desire and to let me partake of some of the minor tasks and undertakings carried on by Your Reverences in those conversions.

I shall appreciate it more than whatever I do by myself, as the Lord will be highly pleased by the conversion of souls. This very thing I have seen in the Almighty, and I have heard His blessed Angels tell me that they envied the custodians of souls who devote themselves to conversions. As ministers who present our deeds to the Most High, they affirm that the ones His Majesty accepts with greatest satisfaction are those who are occupied in the conversions of New Mexico. The reason for this, the blessed Angel explained, is that since the blood of the Lamb was sufficient for all souls and He suffered for one what He suffered for all, the Lord grieved more over the loss of one soul for lack of knowledge of our Holy Faith than over enduring many martyrdoms and deaths This should encourage such a holy occupation as well as much suffering to succeed in it.

Seeing as all that has been stated in my writing is true, and that my Father Custodian of New Mexico ordered me to do so by obedience, I signed it with my name. And I beg Your Reverences, all those I have mentioned here, in the name of the Lord himself, whom we serve and through whom I reveal this to you, to conceal and keep these secrets to yourselves, as the case demands that it should not be revealed to any living being.

From this house of the Concepción Purísima of Agreda, May 15, 1631,
Sor Maria de Jesus'

Flag and motto of Texas.

The first mission in Texas was to the Jumanos and was established at San Angelo in 1632, but it only lasted for 6 months because it was considered to be too far from the missions in New Mexico.

A service with the Jumano Indians, in the early 1630s, in the days before missions/churches were built in the area.

Pilgrims from Spain visiting a monument in 2012 erected by the Concho River in San Angelo, Texas, which commemorates the mission to the Jumano Indians established following María de Jesús de Ágreda's bilocation visits to that tribe. '"What we can do as devotees is to keep alive the cause of Sister Maria in what is known as the reputation of holiness. It's something very important, because it means that she is alive. She isn't something of the past, but she is alive" Consuelo Campos said.'

The inscription reads: '1632-1966, Memorial, The Reverend Fray Juan de Ortega established a mission near this site for the Jumano Indians, 1632. Erected by Texas Society Colonial Dames XVII Century.'

Sor María inspired the Spanish occupation of east Texas. Adina De Zavala, in her 'History and Legends of The Alamo and Other Missions in and around San Antonio' (San Antonio, 1917, p. 69) states that: 'Two land expeditions were sent out to find the Bay of Espiritu Santo and were unsuccessful and a third (unless the one to bring in the Frenchman located by Father Manzanet is counted as the third,) left Coahuila March 26, 1689, under Captain Alonzo de Leon, accompanied by Father Manzanet. The latter had become interested in the Indians in the far interior through a letter in his possession treating of facts made known by the Venerable Mary Coronel de Agreda, as to certain tribes, and of her entreaties that missionaries be sent to find and bring them to God. It was the pleading of Mary Coronel de Agreda [in her letter of 1631 to the missionaries of New Mexico] that had moved Manzanet to search for the French and try to convince the authorities of their presence in Texas and so induce a third expedition that he might accompany it and the sooner reach the Tejas Indians. On this expedition the Bay of Espiritu Santo was discovered, the Fort built by the French under La Salle was found, and the Chief of the Tejas Indians was interviewed by Manzanet and promised missionaries. The report made to the viceroy as to the beauty, fertility and desirability of the country was such that it was determined to occupy it and assist the Franciscans in their educational and religious work among the wild tribes.'

The main contributing factor in establishing the network of trails that became El Camino Real de los Tejas, however, was Spain’s attempt to create a buffer against the French from the late 1600s on. Spaniards showed little interest in settling the area until 1685, when they received news that French explorer René Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle had established a colony in Matagorda Bay. Traveling both by overland routes and by sea, several Spanish parties searched for La Salle’s outpost. Alonso de León made three failed attempts, but finally succeeded in finding La Salle’s settlement in 1689. Accompanied by Franciscan friar Damián Massanet and guided primarily by a member of the Quems Nation, de León’s party found La Salle’s Fort St. Louis in ruins on the banks of Garcitas Creek (on the boundary of Victoria and Jackson counties). The search for La Salle’s outpost was the beginning of an ongoing Spanish presence in East Texas, marked by expeditions and attempts at colonization. (National Park Service, El Camino Real de los Tejas Comprehensive Management Plan).

A reconstruction of the original mission church of San Francisco de los Tejas, the first mission in east Texas, in the Mission Tejas State Park, Weches, Texas, built in 1690 and abandoned in 1693 (when the Indians became hostile after an epidemic killed some 3,000 people), re-founded 1716, abandoned in 1719 (due to fear of French incursions from Louisiana), re-founded in 1721 as San Francisco de los Neches and finally re-founded in 1731 as Mission San Francisco de la Espada near San Antonio, Texas.

In 1690, 25 years after Sor Maria's death, Father Damian Massanet wrote to Don Carlos de Siguenza y Gongora, a high-ranking Spanish official in Mexico, presumably from San Francisco de los Tejas*, near Weches, Texas: "While we were at the Tejas village, after we had distributed clothing to the Indians and to the governor [chief] of the Tejas, the said governor asked me one evening for a piece of blue baize to make a shroud in which to bury his mother when she died. I told him that cloth would be more suitable, and he answered that he did not want any color other than blue. I then asked him what mystery was attached to the blue color, and he said that they were very fond of that color, especially for burial clothes, because in times past they had been visited frequently by a very beautiful woman, who used to come down from the heights, dressed in blue garments, and that they wished to be like that woman. On my asking whether this had been a long time since, the governor said it had been before his time, but his mother, who was aged, had seen the woman, as had also the other old people. From this it is easily to be seen that they referred to the Madre María de Jesús de Ágreda, who was very frequently in those regions, as she herself acknowledged to the father custodian of New Mexico, her last visit having been made in 1631, this last fact being evident from her own statement, made to the said father custodian of New Mexico.'

*In the same letter Father Damian Massanet wrote: 'The next morning I went out with Captain Alonso de Leon a little way, and found a delightful spot close to the brook, fine woods, with plum trees like those in Spain. And soon afterwards, on the same day, they began to fell trees and cart the wood, and within three days we had a roomy dwelling and a church wherein to say mass with all propriety.'

Angelina, the 'Little Angel' of the Hainai

A spiritual successor to Sor María was a girl of the Hainai tribe called Angelina ('Little Angel') who met Father Damian Massanet (above) in 1690 (this means that her grandparents generation would have encountered Sor María). She learned Spanish and acted as an interpreter for the missionaries. She was last recorded in 1721 and an Indian woman called 'Angelina' appears in the burial records of the Catholic church at Natchitoches, Louisiana (Bob Bowman, 'Land of the Little Angel'). Angelina County ('Land of the Little Angel') is the only Texan county named after a woman. The Angelina River, Texas, and the Angelina National Forest, Texas (map here) are also named after her. The Church of Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de los Hainais was built near the Angelina River at her request in 1716 (see below). This church was re-named Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Ágreda in 1718, thus providing a direct link between Angelina and Sor María. Perhaps she was called 'Little Angel' for a reason.

Angelina, the 'Little Angel' of the Hainai (from the cover of a book 'Land of the Little Angel', edited by Bob Bowman).

A statue of Angelina acting as interpreter between a missionary and an Indian (Lufkin City Civic Center, Lufkin, Texas).

Plaque on the statue of Angelina at Lufkin, Texas.

The Angelina River.

The Angelina River.

Kaw-u-tz, a Caddo girl (1906).

Sor (Sister) María - The Legend of the Bluebonnet, state flower of Texas

It was said by the Indians that the morning after her last visit they found the countryside covered in blue flowers as a memento of her; the 'bluebonnet', which became the state flower of Texas.

Texas bluebonnets.

Bluebonnets, Ennis, Texas.

The Bluebonnet tartan, the official tartan of Texas from 1989.

Origin of chili con carne - a heaven-sent dish?

'The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia' (Dave DeWitt, William Morrow, New York, 1999) states that 'Chili con carne fanatics tell strange tales about the possible origin of chili. The story of the "lady in blue" tells of Sister Mary of Agreda, a Spanish nun in the early 1600s who never left her convent in Spain but nonetheless had out-of-body experiences during which her spirit would be transported across the Atlantic to preach Christianity to the Indians. After one of the return trips, her spirit wrote down the first recipe for chili con carne, which the Indians gave her: chile peppers, venison, onions, and tomatoes.'

I wonder whether this recipe might be based on the recipe for Papago Tepary Bean Soup, given that Sor María visited the Papago tribe, as described below.

Chili con carne - a heaven-sent dish?

Sor (Sister) María in Arizona (including the Colorado River)

Roman Catholic missionaries in the American South-West.

Sor María was twice martyred by one Indian tribe who shot her with arrows and left her for dead. 'Another written testimony to the presence of Mary of Agreda among the Indians of Arizona comes from the record book of Captain Mateo Mange, who traveled with Jesuit priests Eusebio Francisco Kino and Adamo Gil on the expedition to discover the Colorado and Zila [recte 'Gila'] Rivers in 1699. Once, when speaking with some very old Indians*, the explorers asked them if they had ever heard their elders speak about a Spanish captain passing through their region with horses and soldiers. They were seeking information about the expedition of Don Juan de Oñate in 1606. The Indians told them that they could remember hearing of such a group from the old people who were already dead. Then they added - without any question to prompt them - that when they were children a beautiful white woman, dressed in white, brown and blue, with a cloth covering her head, had come to their land. Mange recounts more of what the Indians told him: “She had spoken, shouted [at] and harangued them … and showed them a cross*. The nations of the Colorado River shot her with arrows, leaving her for dead on two occasions. Reviving, she disappeared into the air. They did not know where her house and dwelling was. After a few days, she returned again and then many times after to preach to them.” This would concur with the report of Fr. Benevides, who had interviewed Mother Mary of Agreda in her convent. She told him that on several occasions the Indians had turned on her and shot arrows at her, leaving her for dead. She felt the pain of the attacks, but when she would come to herself later in the convent in Agreda, there was no sign of the wounds. Mange further notes that the Indians of San Marcelo had told them this same story five days earlier, although at that time they had not believed it. But the fact that they heard the same thing repeated in a place some distance away** made them begin to suspect that the woman was Mother Mary of Jesus of Agreda. The missionaries were acquainted with her life and work, and knew from Fr. de Benavides’ Memorials that during the years 1620-1631 she had preached to the Indians of North America. Almost 70 years had passed since that time, and these old men – who appeared to be about 80 – would have been young boys at the time that the Lady in Blue visited them.' (See Nancy P. Hickerson, 'The Visits of the 'Lady in Blue': An Episode in the History of the South Plains, 1629', Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol. 46, No. 1 (Spring, 1990), pp. 67-90; http://www.jstor.org/stable/3630394; Damian Massanet, Letter of Fray Damian Massanet to Don Carlos de Siguënza, in Bolton, Herbert Eugene Bolton (ed.), 'Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706' (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916), pp. 347-38; www.americanjourneys.org/aj-018/; W. Donahue, 'Mary of Agreda and the Southwest United States', p. 310. as quoted here.)

*The original says 'Añadieron (sin ofrecernos preguntar la tal cosa) que siendo ellos muchachos, vino a sus tierras una mujer blanca y hermosa vestida de blanco, pardo y azul, hasta los pies y un paño o velo con que cubría la cabeza, la cual les hablaba y gritaba, y reñía, con una cruz, en lengua que no entendían y que las naciones del río Colorado la flecharon y dejaron por muerta dos veces y que resucitado se iba por el aire sin saber donde era su casa y vivienda, y a pocos días volvía muchas veces a reñirlos; lo mismo nos habían dicho 5 días antes en la ranchería de San Marcelo a que no dábamos ascenso, pero confirmando éstos lo mismo y en lugares tan apartados, discurrimos si acaso la venerable María de Jesús de Agreda, por decir en la Relación de su vida que por los años de 1,630 predicó a los indios gentiles de esta Septentrional América y contornos del Nuevo México, y habiendo pasado 68 años hasta el corriente en que nos dan esta noticia los viejos que parecen según el aspecto de 80 años pueden acordarse.' (Manje Luz 266). In other words, the Indians who shot her did not understand the language in which she spoke to them.

**This was apparently on the Gila River (near Yuma) at the northern end of 'El Camino del Diablo' ('The Devil's Road'), which ran from Caborca, Sonora, Mexico via Sonoyta on the Arizona/Mexico border to the Yuma Crossing, Yuma, Arizona. In any event, the location is 5 days by foot from Sonoyta, New Mexico, heading north along the 'El Camino del Diablo' towards the Gila River, east of Yuma (Eusebio Kino could easily average about 30 miles a day). According to Mange, as quoted in 'Spain in the West' (University of California, 1919, Vol. III, p. 196), this happened at a camp overlooking the junction of the Colorado and Gila Rivers 'near Dome and above Blaisdell'.
**In the area of Sonoyta, New Mexico.

According to Mange, as quoted in 'Spain in the West' (University of California, 1919, Vol. III, p. 198): 'Thanks to the infinite goodness of the Lord, so completely did we effect the desired proof that the natives of the Rio Grande, or Rio de los Apostoles, and their environs, did not roast and eat people, that the Senor Lieutenant Juan Matheo Manje, in his careful and well written relation that he wrote of this entry, said that, because there was so much affability, love, and affection on the part of these new peoples, he was of the opinion that years before the venerable Mother Maria de Jesus de Agreda had come to domesticate and instruct them, as there is a tradition that she came from Spain miraculously to instruct some other nations, of New Mexico, for the Reverend Fathers of San Francisco found them already somewhat instructed. Others have been of the opinion that the blessed blood of the venerable father Francisco Xavier Saeta is fertilizing and ripening these very extensive fields.' But Francisco Xavier Saeta had only been in the area (Caborca, Mexico) for 6 months when, tragically, he was murdered by the Indians, so he had very little time to interact with them and the fact that they murdered him shows their reaction at that time (1695) in the particular area he was in was hostile, not receptive. Logically, the receptive Indians that they met were not those encountered by Francisco Xavier Saeta.

View of the Tule Mountains from El Camino del Diablo, about 40 miles south-east of Yuma, Arizona, near the Arizona/Mexico border. One of the most hostile landscapes in the world.

Map of historic trails including 'El Camino del Diablo' ('The Devil's Road), shown in red, which ran from Caborca, Sonora, Mexico via Sonoyta on the Arizona/Mexico border to Yuma, Arizona at the junction of the Colorado and Gila Rivers..

Map of the 1699 expedition of Eusebio Kino, showing parts of Mexico, Arizona and the Gulf of California. The outward leg is the western one, which ended just east of the junction of the Colorado and Gila Rivers (just off the left of the map). It was in that area that the expedition heard the reports of María de Jesús de Ágreda as described above. The expedition then returned by going eastwards along the Gila River and then southwards.

A bit of humour. Naturally, if Sor María did evangelize along the lower reaches of the Colorado River in southern Arizona then she may also have travelled into northern Arizona and so may have actually flown across the Grand Canyon. An amazing thought - a nun whizzing about in the sky above the Grand canyon in the early 1600s. I am sure she would have 'popped over' to have a look. Remember that the Franciscans did not doubt that she miraculously visited 'New Spain' and evangelized the Indians there, so the idea of her visiting the area of the Grand Canyon would not have surprised them at all. After all, to someone who travelled across the Atlantic up to three times a day, going from southern Arizona to northern Arizona would be a mere hop. In fact, we know that Sor María crossed the Grand Canyon because, as stated below, she visited the Ohlone tribe in the San Francisco area of California.

A photograph of María de Jesús de Ágreda flying over the Grand Canyon in about 1620, quill pen and book in hand, off to give the Indians a good lecture (photo by Jamie Milne, 4 Apr 2004 - or rather 1620).

Sor María and the Navajo Indians

'Navajo Land' by Ray Roberts and Peggi Kroll-Roberts

Navajo Land (Monument Valley, Arizona)

Another tribe of Arizona/New Mexico that Sor María appears to have visited is the Navajo. 'It may interest the reader to learn that, according to Mr. Will Robinson, a journalist of New Mexico, the Navajo Indians in 1935 and 1936 were excited over a predicted return of the Blue Lady. They refused to divulge the source of their information, but declared with complete assurance that a visit by the Blue Lady was impending. Whether they still await her, we do not know.' ('Legends of the Spanish Southwest', Cleve Hallenbeck & Juanita H. Williams, The Arthur H. Clark Company, Glendale, California, U.S.A., 1938, p. 314).

In 1937 Mary Cabot Wheelwright (1878-1958) founded The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian (originally The Museum of Navajo Ceremonial Art) at Santa Fe, New Mexico, in collaboration with Hastiin Klah, a Navajo singer and medicine man, in an attempt to preserve Navajo culture. The setting up of a single museum may not seem like saving a nation but a nation only exists in its history, culture, laws, customs, language and religion; lose these things and a nation ceases to exist. During this period (the first half of the 20th century) there was a concerted attempt to 'assimilate' the Navajo into 'mainstream' American life by destroying their culture and this largely took the form of forcibly excluding Navajo culture and religion from the education of young Navajo Indians. In this context the preservation of Navajo culture became paramount. People can be re-educated, but not if the thing they are to be re-educated in has been destroyed. Of course, Sor María and the Franciscans tried to bring the Indians to God and to teach them new skills, but they never wanted to destroy their culture. Today the Navajo nation is the largest tribe in the USA.

Mary Cabot Wheelwright (1882), Brooklyn Museum, by Frank Duveneck (1848-1919). 'Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue.' (Numbers 15:38).

Mary Cabot Wheelwright in the library of her family’s home in Northeast Harbor, Maine in 1912.

Mary Cabot Wheelwright.

Mary Cabot Wheelwright.

Mary Cabot Wheelwright.

Mary Cabot Wheelwright's house from 1923 to 1958 at Los Luceros, Alcalde, New Mexico. 'Los Luceros' means 'The Stars'.

'Los Luceros'.

The Chapel at Los Luceros.

Inside the chapel at Los Luceros.

The dining room at Los Luceros.

The lodge down by the river at Los Luceros.

The lodge down by the river at Los Luceros.

The view of the Rio Grande from the lodge down by the river at Los Luceros.

'Our Lady of Guadalupe', late 18th or early 19th century, school of Laguna Santero, Spanish Colonial Arts Society, Santa Fe, New Mexico, formerly in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Collier and Mary Cabot Wheelwright, bequest of Alan and Ann Vedder.

Historical marker near Santa Fe near Interstate 25 at milepost 269, 1.5 miles west of Waldo Canyon Road (County Route 57).

'The Seated Maiden' (1983) - A statuette by Navajo artist Jack Black.

The Papago Indians (now called the Tohono O’odham) and San Xavier del Bac ('The White Dove of the Desert')

San Xavier del Bac today (more photographs here).

'The Visitation', a mural in San Xavier del Bac inspired by María de Jesús de Ágreda's 'The Mystical City of God' ('A Gift of Angels: The Art of Mission San Xavier del Bac', Bernard L. Fontana, Edward McCain, Photographer, University of Arizona Press).

As described by J. Ross Browne in 'Adventures in the Apache Country', 1864:

'Nine miles from Tucson we came to the fine old mission of San Xavier del Bac, built by the Jesuits in 1668 [Browne's date is actually about a hundred years too early. Though Father Kino may have located a site for a church at the same location, the present building was begun about 1797 by Pedro Bojourquez under the direction of the Franciscan Fathers.] This is one of the most beautiful and picturesque edifices of the kind to be found on the North American continent. I was surprised to see such a splendid monument of civilization in the wilds of Arizona. The front is richly ornamented with fanciful decorations in masonry; a lofty bell-tower rises at each corner, one in an unfinished condition. Over the main chapel in the rear is also a large dome; and the walls are surmounted by massive cornices and ornaments appropriately designed. The material is principally brick, made, no doubt, on the spot. The style of architecture is Saracenic. The entire edifice is perfect in the harmony of its proportions. In every point of view the eye is satisfied. Mr. Mowry well observes, in his pamphlet on Arizona, that, "incredible as it may seem, the church of San Xavier, with its elaborate facade, its dome and spires, would today be an ornament to the architecture of New York."

Papago village at San Xavier del Bac, drawing by J. Ross Browne, 1864

A village of Papago Indians, numbering some two or three hundred souls, partially surrounds the mission. There are also a few Mexicans living among the Indians; but they are regarded with distrust, and complaint is made that they have intruded themselves against the wish of the tribe. Mr. Poston, upon investigation of the matter, ordered the Mexicans to leave.

As far back as our knowledge of the Papagoes extends they have been a peaceable, industrious, and friendly race. They live here, as they lived two centuries ago, by cultivating the low grounds in the vicinity, which they make wonderfully productive by a system of irrigation. Wheat, corn, pumpkins, and pomegranates are the principle articles of subsistence raised by these Indians; and they seem to enjoy an abundance of everything necessary for health and comfort. They profess the Catholic faith, and are apparently sincere converts. The Jesuit missionaries taught them those simple forms which they retain to this day, though of late years they have been utterly neglected. The women sing in the church with a degree of sweetness and harmony that quite surprised me. At the time of our visit two Padres from Santa Clara, California, who had come as far as Tucson with the command, had just taken up their quarters in the mission. From my acquaintance with them on the road, I judge them to be very sincere and estimable as well as intelligent men. We furnished them with a Pimo grammar, published by Mr. Buckingham Smith, late American Secretary of Legation to Spain; and they are now studying the language with a view of holding more advantageous intercourse with the Papagoes, who are originally a branch of the Pimos, and speak the same language. The reverend fathers entertained us during our sojourn with an enthusiastic account of their plans for the restoration of the mission and the instruction and advancement of the Indian tribes, with whom they were destined to be associated for some years to come.

Papagoes and Apaches

Subject as the Papagoes are to frequent encroachments from the Apaches, they are compelled to keep their cattle closely watched. At present they possess scarcely sufficient stock for the ordinary purposes of agriculture. Not more than five or six months ago a small band of Apaches made a foray within mile of the village, and carried away with them at a single swoop most of the stock then grazing in the pastures. Though naturally disposed to peaceful pursuits, the Papagoes are not deficient in courage. On one occasion, when the principal chiefs and braves were away gathering petayah [fruits of the cactus] in the desert, the old men and boys of the tribe kept at bay, and finally beat off, a band of over two hundred Apaches who made a descent upon the village. Frequently they pursue their hereditary enemies to the mountains, and in almost every engagement inflict upon them a severe chastisement.

Papagoes in northern Sonora

After recruiting at Sonoita for a week, we traveled through the country of the Papago Indians. This tribe is a branch of the Pima family which formerly inhabited the northern part of Sonora and the country along the Gila river, but having accepted the doctrine of Christianity from the Jesuit missionaries, and received the rite of baptism, they are now called Papagoes -- from Bapconia, which in the Pima language means baptized. They cut their hair short and adopt the customs, manners, and costume of civilization. They live in villages, have fine fat cattle, horses, mules, and poultry, and are docile, honest and industrious; more so in fact than their neighbors and former teachers, the Mexicans. Their country is barren and unproductive, but so salubrious that they could not be persuaded to leave it for any other part of the world.

Heading for the Papagoria

Mr. Poston had written down to San Xavier, to the Padre Messea, to send up these chiefs and warriors, in order that they might accompany us on our proposed tour through the region of the Papago villages lying west of the Baboquivori. We found their services very useful as scouts, guides, and interpreters. Captain Jose speaks good Spanish, and is a man of excellent character, remarkable for his sobriety and good sense. Of all the Papagoes he is perhaps the most reliable and intelligent.

Captain Jose, chief of the Papagoes, drawing by J. Ross Browne, 1864

The Papagoria

The Papago Indians, of whom Captain Jose, our guide, was the principal chief, have been driven into the desert area known as the Papagoria, by the hostilities of the Mexicans on the south, and the Apaches on the north and east, yet even now they are not permitted to enjoy the peaceful possession of a country in which it is scarcely possible to sustain life upon the scanty product of the soil. The Mexicans in the pursuit of silver, which abounds in the mountains, drive them from their watering-places, and the Apaches steal their cattle from the limited patches of grazing land, so that they have great difficulty in procuring the means of subsistence. The only place in which they can enjoy comparative security is at San Xavier; and even at this point they are constantly imposed upon by Mexicans and renegade Americans. In a late report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs (not yet published), Superintendent Poston, speaking of these interesting people, with whom he has been familiar for many years, says: "Their first and principal village is at San Xavier del Bac, a Mission Church erected by the Jesuits in 1668, where they have lived and planted and watched their flocks and herds ever since, resisting the barbarous Apaches, and assisting their Spanish, Mexican, and American protectors in many campaigns against the savage Indians. They raise wheat, corn, barley, beans, peas, melons and pumpkins, and are expert in the manufacture of pottery and willow ware. In harvest time they spread all over the country, as reapers and gleaners, returning with their wages of grain for the winter. They gather the fruit of the Cereus giganteus, which they call Petayah, and after expressing the juice for molasses, press the pulp in cakes for their winter stores. The ripening of this fruit is the Papago Carnival, when men, women and children go into ecstasies of delight. They have horses, cattle, sheep, poultry, and great numbers of dogs. As these Indians were found in possession of the soil they cultivate, and have maintained continuous possession ever since, it would seem equitable that their rights should be recognized by the government of the United States. They have guarded the grand old church of San Xavier del Bac with religious reverence, and naturally look upon it as their property, held in sacred trust. A square league around the Mission would include all the land they have in cultivation and the water necessary for its irrigation." (The Commissioner of Indian Affairs has since given the necessary authority, and a reservation at San Xavier has been set apart for these Indians.)

The estimated number of the Papago tribe is 6,800 souls, of whom at least three-fourths live in the Papagoria. Their villages are situated around the watering-places. They are a peaceful, simple-minded race, inoffensive in their habits, yet brave in the defense of their families and property against the devastations of their hereditary enemies, the Apaches. A large majority of them are sincere converts to the Catholic faith, which they acquired from the Jesuit fathers.'

A Tourist at San Xavier del Bac, 1882

William Henry Bishop presents an 1882 view of the Mission of San Xavier del Bac and the Papago village in his article 'Across Arizona' (Harper's Magazine, March 1883). Bishop travelled through Arizona on the Southern Pacific Railroad from Yuma to Benson and back, with a side trip to Tombstone. He was an art critic who was familiar with Italian and other European schools of art and has a unique perspective on the ancient mission church.

'If Tucson be without historic remains of its own, it has one of the loveliest possible in its immediate vicinity, in the old mission church of San Xavier del Bac. San Xavier del Bac on the reservation of the Christian Papago Indians, in the Santa Cruz valley, ten miles to the southward, creates a new sensation even for him who arrives from Mexico with an impression that he has thoroughly gone through everything belonging to the peculiar school. It is not surpassed either in Mexico or elsewhere for the kind of quaintness, the qualities of form and color, and the gentle sentiment of melancholy that appeal to the artistic sense. The tread of Father Time has fallen heavily on the wooden balconies of the front, broken out their floors, and left parts of them dangling, with bits of the railings. The old bells, of a sweet tone, still hang in one of the towers. The space, terminating in a scrolled gable, between, is enriched with escutcheons, rampant lions wreathed in foliage, niches containing broken statues, and complicated pilasters flanking the doorway--all formed in stucco upon a basis of moulded brick.

San Xavier del Bac, 1882, Harper's magazine, March 1883

The designer, whoever he may have been, was inspired by Venetian-Byzantine traditions. The interior, with numerous simple domes and half domes, frescoed with angels and evangelists, especially the chancel end, almost covered with gilding, now stained and battered, and the painted and gilded lions on the chancel rails, recall to the least observant Saint Mark's at Venice. This style is not consistently carried out, however. A rococo decoration, so exuberant that it might be taken for the vagaries of East Indian work, mingles with and overrides it. A Henri II faience candlestick might give a certain idea of the fashion of the interior columns. The date has disappeared from the church itself, but it is believed that it should be about 1768, and that the present edifice was built upon the ruins of a former one, going back much nearer to the year 1654, when the mission to the Papagos was begun. Large angels holding bannerets, with draperies formed in papier mache or gummed muslin, are attached to the main chancel piers; and a painted and gilded Virgin, with a long face and hair brushed back from a high forehead, in the manner of the French Jean Goujon, looks down from a high central niche.

All this, within, is of the true medieval richness and obscurity. Without, in the broad sunshine, is the peaceful old Papago hamlet, where a few old men trudge about their bake-ovens and water jars and strings of dried squash, and some women pass carrying tall loads of hay or other produce in a queer contrivance of sticks and netting fastened on their backs, which they call the kijo. Nobody concerns himself about the visitors, except the foolishly smiling boy Domingo, who has brought us the key. To be at San Xavier del Bac, and to have come to it from that spasm of aggressive modernism, Tombstone, could contrast further go?'

A Papago woman gathering Hanamh (cholla cactus) (Edward Curtis, 1907).

Old style of Papago house.

'La Señorita Azul' ('The Blue Lady') - a tale of the Papago tribe of the Sonoran desert of Arizona and Mexico (see map above)

'La Señorita Azul (the Blue Lady) visited this country in times now afar off. Before the grandfather of my grandmother’s grandfather lived. The story is even as I shall tell it. It was, as I have said, so many years ago that no man can count them. The chief of the Papago people was very old. He loved the son of his son, who one day himself would be a chief; and he loved the boy the more for the reason that the boy’s father, who was the old chief’s son, was dead. But this boy now lay very sick in the lodge of his mother, and for two days the people of the village had made prayers to their gods to spare the boy’s life. But these prayers did not help, nor was the magic of the medicine men of any avail. It was as I have said when, at the end of a day, the men and women of the village, having partaken of their evening meal, were sitting about their fire in the plaza, but the children all were in the lodges and asleep. All were silent and were heavy of spirit because of the sickness that lay upon the son of the chief’s son.

Now, while they were so, there came a flash of white light so bright that every one was blinded by it, and when sight came slowly back to their eyes, they saw standing before them a young woman, clothed in strange robes of blue, and, my brother, she was of beauty like to that of the full moon rising over quiet waters. All were filled with fear and were unable to say or move. Then the young woman spoke to them, and bade them have no fear, but to listen to her words. Thereupon she told them of a new god, whereof they had not known before, and who was not like to any of their gods, but chief of them all. For a long time she spoke, and her tongue was like to the music of a mountain stream to the ears of a very thirsty man.

Then, to make known to them that she was sent by the god whereof she had told them, she asked if there were any sick in their village, and when she asked this she looked at the old chief. Thereupon he sprang to his feet, and said that the son of his son was sick and near to death. He told her "We have prayed to our gods, and they have done nothing. If now your god can restore him that is sick, we will know that he is the ruler of all gods." So la Señorita Azul asked that she be led to where the sick boy lay, and the old chief led the way. When they reached the lodge wherein the sick boy lay, she placed her hand on his forehead and began saying prayers to the god whereof she had spoken. The boy’s mother was filled with fear at this, and would have prevented it, but she was restrained by the old chief who bade her be quiet. La Señorita Azul so prayed and held her hand on the boy’s head for the time it would take to smoke a small pipe, the while the people stood about outside the lodge in wonder. When she took away her hand, the boy’s eyes opened, and he smiled, and his distemper was gone, and he asked that food be given him. But la Señorita Azul forbade, saying, "Give him water, but give him no food until the morrow."

Then the people were all filled with joy, and made much noise, and they followed la Señorita Azul from the lodge and begged her to remain with them, and asked her what food she desired. But she denied them, and answered that she must not stay and must not eat of any food. But in time to come, she told them, teachers would appear, to tell them how to live after the manner of her people, and to tell them more of the chief of all gods of whom she had spoken.

Then a sleeping came over all, so that they knew nothing, and when they woke the woman was gone, although the red of the sunset, which still sat upon the mountain tops, made clear to them that they had slept for but a moment. They thought that they all had but dreamed, but when they hastened to the lodge wherein the son of the chief lay, they found him sleeping, and his mother, who had stayed with him, made assurance that all had happened as had appeared to happen.

No, Señor, she came no more; or, if she did, the tale of her coming has not been passed down to us. But the teachers came, as she had foretold, and they told our people about the god of the white men, and how to live even as the white people lived.'

('Legends of the Spanish Southwest', Cleve Hallenbeck & Juanita H. Williams, The Arthur H. Clark Company, Glendale, California, U.S.A., 1938, pp. 311-313).

'Lady in Blue'

Papagos today.

'Our Lady of the Highway' - A Papago shrine near Pisinemo, Arizona.

A Papago cemetery on the Tohono O'odham Reservation - every cross is blue.

Sor (Sister) María in California

An artist's impression of an early mission on the Californian coast.

Who can tell the thrilling story
Of the missions' slow uprearing?
Of privation, toil and fearing
Borne by these Franciscan friars
Abnegation of desires,
Sacrifice of every pleasure,
Spending all of life's best treasure
For the glory of their calling?
Now the dust of time is falling
O'er the graves unknown and lowly,
In the missions' confines holy
All the years in silence sleeping...'

From 'A Legend of the Missions' by Lee C. Harby (Adina De Zavala, in her 'History and Legends of The Alamo and Other Missions in and around San Antonio', San Antonio, 1917, p. 126)

According to the response by Mission Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California (just south of San Francisco) to a survey sent to the Spanish Colonies in America in 1812 by Don Ciríaco González Carvajal, Secretary of the Department of Overseas Colonies (Maynard Geiger O.F.M., 'As The Padres Saw Them'), or possibly inquiries made by the Council of Regency in 1810, there was a tradition amongst the Ohlone tribe of California that 'in some former time an alien woman came to this region'; that is Santa Cruz, California. The missionaries identified this woman as Sor María.

'View of Santa Cruz Mission, California', Ford, Henry Chapman (1828-1894), 1883, UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library.

Franciscan missionaries. Fathers Francisco Gómez and Juan Crespí, baptizing an Indian child at Los Christianos, California on 22 Jul 1769 (Engelhardt, Zephyrin, 'San Juan Capistrano Mission', 1922, p. 285).

'Up from the south slow filed a train,
Priests and Soldiers of Old Spain,
Who, through sunlit lomas* wound
With cross and lance, intent to found
A mission in the wild to John
Soldier-Saint of Capistran.'

*foothills

Saunders and Chase, 'The California Padres and Their Missions', p. 65

Mission San Juan Capistrano, California.

The Franciscan monk, Junípero Serra (1713-1784), founder of the first nine of the California Missions, was inspired by the example of María de Jesús de Ágreda (Francisco Palou, 'Evangelista de la Mar Pacífico', ed. by M. Aguilar, Madrid, 1944. p. 25) and carried two books with him - The Bible and María de Jesús de Ágreda's 'The Mystical City of God'. Serra went either bare-footed or wore hemp sandals in imitation of Sor María. Junípero Serra is regarded as the founder of California.

'So what led Serra to travel to the New World? For that, visitors will want to gaze at "The Mystical City of God," a 1706 oil painting by Cristóbal de Villalpando [see below], one of Mexico's leading creators of Catholic devotional art. The richly hued work depicts the Spanish nun María de Jesús de Agreda with John the Evangelist. "She had a revelation from Mary," Mr. Hackel says, "which she wrote in her book that's over here. She says that 'Indians in the new world, upon sighting the Franciscans, will become converted, if not immediately then certainly before long.'" Obviously history proved her statement wrong. "But what made it to Serra seem possible - even pre-ordained and inevitable - were Sor María's writings," Mr. Hackel says.' (Cooper, Arnie, 'The Gentle Padre', The Wall Street Journal, 9 Sept 2013)

Statue of the Franciscan monk, Junípero Serra (1713-1784), founder of the first nine Californian Missions, at the Mission San Juan Capistrano, the oldest building in California still in use and the place where the first Californian wine was produced. He was inspired by the example of María de Jesús de Ágreda and carried two books with him - The Bible and María de Jesús de Ágreda's 'The Mystical City of God'.

'

A cloister at Mission San Juan Capistrano, California - taken by Jamie Milne on 31 Mar 2004.

Courtyard at Mission San Juan Capistrano, California - taken by Jamie Milne on 31 Mar 2004.

Moorish fountain at Mission San Juan Capistrano, California.

A statue of Junípero Serra in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the US Capitol, representing the state of California.

Mission San Antonio de Padua

Mission San Antonio de Padua

Mission San Antonio de Padua

Gregory Orfalea, in his ‘Journey to the Sun: Junipero Serra's Dream and the Founding of California’ (Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2014, p. 224-228), writes (the dialogue is clearly imaginary but the basic facts are not I assume - the story is also recounted in Jeanne Farr McDonnell's 'Juana Briones of Nineteenth-century California', University of Arizona Press, 2008, p. 30 but evidently originated in Francisco Palóu's 'Life of Junipo Serra'):

'On July 8, 1771, even before he finalized the move to Carmel, Serra departed Monterey with a pack train of mules, six leatherjacket soldiers, three sailors, and a handful of Baja Indians to find the Valle de Los Robles that so enamored Crespi. Traveling south with him were two priests from among the new arrivals - Buenaventura Sitjar and Miguel Pieras, both Mallorcans in their early thirties. Both priests would go on to the longest stretches of service at one mission (San Antonio) in early California history, Pieras for twenty-three years, Sitjar for thirty-six. For a turnaround mission and new model, going inland to warm country, Serra picked right.

Although he complained to the viceroy that he was basically down to one bell to spare, that bell may have been the brass one he got in exchange for a cracked bronze version given the San Antonio’s captain. It certainly was lighter, easier to hoist, and with a sharp ring to it. On July 13, Serra stopped the party near a rushing Mission Creek, sixty-five miles up the Carmel River, under shade of oaks in a glow of rye grass. He took the brass bell out from its burlap mule sack, probably patted the animal's rump, checked the cIapper to see if it was loose, threaded the rope through the bell head, and swooped it over oak limbs. Soon he pulled in the heat.

"Come, come, you gentiles, come to the Holy Church!" Serra sang out, the brass bell clanging in the empty woods.

"Come, oh come, receive the faith of Jesus Christ!" If Serra smiled, Sitjar had to laugh. His companion's already ruddy face was burned from five days in the wilderness. He looked around: nothing but a hawk's circling shadow.

"Why exhaust yourself?" appealed Pieras, San Antonio's pastor-to-be. "This isn't a church. There's not a pagan anywhere near who can hear it." To him, the bell sounded like a ship in distress.

Serra kept pulling, his tonsured head undoubtedly gleaming with sweat. He called out, Venis, venis, mes gentiles.

"What a waste of time." Pieras turned to fetch water from the creek.

"Father, let my heart overflow," Serra chastised him. "Just as Maria de Agreda would want - let this bell be heard all over the world. Or at least by the gentiles who live in these mountains." He flung his hand out to the Santa Lucias, that wall before the Pacific.

Maria de Agreda at her writing desk was carved into Palou's Landa mission high in the Sierra Gorda of Mexico. Her book [The Mystical City of God] was Serra's constant companion all over the New World. Since leaving Loreto in Baja, this was Serra's third reference to the bilocating nun he believed preceded him to these parts a century earlier (according to her own testimony, five hundred times after 1620, flying with St. Michael, St. Francis, and assorted angels). First, conversion on sight of Franciscans, as Agreda had promised, with the Cochimi chief at Velicata; then confiding to Galvez that Agreda had sent a monstrance to New Mexico; and now at the start of Mission San Antonio, invoking Agreda with his fervent brass bell. Yet Serra knew there had been no conversion on sight in San Diego, where his one baptism had grievously flopped, or in Monterey, where all the ministrations of cannon, incense, and Latin hymns brought no one out of the woods. It's hard to believe what Geiger claims - that as late as 1773, when he visited Mexico, Serra shared with the new viceroy, Antonio Maria de Bucareli y Ursua, Maria de Agreda's promise of conversion on sight, unless Serra were bringing it up ironically.

Nevertheless, that brass day in the valley over the mountains from Big Sur brought a surprise: "a single Indian who had been attracted by the ringing of the bell or the strangeness of the people gathered there." Serra, overjoyed, gestured to him to come out from the shadow of the oaks. Whatever this intrepid soul received, Serra proclaimed at his inaugural sermon for San Antonio the next day, after a cross was hoisted, that "this mission will come to be a settlement of many Christians because we behold here what has not been seen at any mission so far founded." It was a newcomer's soul, a curious soul he wanted to enflame for Christ, just as he was enflamed that radiating summer day, the ground blond in the sun.

Though Serra only tarried at the new San Antonio mission for two weeks, overseeing the construction of a crude chapel and living quarters for Sit jar and Pieras, he was rejuvenated, greeting the stream of Salinan Indians who seemed to have no fear and couldn't give the Spaniards enough seeds and acorns. He was no longer in Monterey, its dead stop of hunger and outlaw soldiery. At High Mass "He gave full vent to his pent-up emotions.”

In two years there were 158 newly baptized Christians (some of whom Serra christened himself), many living in huts around Mission San Antonio. He was concerned about infant mortality, "a number of babies they have sent on their way to God," but he also told the viceroy, "You could not wish for anything more touching than the love that these gentiles have “for the good Fathers. Throughout the whole day, they cannot bring themselves to leave them." In Serra's lifetime, San Antonio would have the largest mission population, establishing, through miles of filtering through sand and charcoal, the first irrigation system in California. And its grapevines would last longer than any, the oldest gnarled trunk in the central coast still giving wine (albeit so bitter deer won't eat its fruit.

Certainly the most unusual of the neophytes was a hundred-year old shrunken woman who walked slowly out of the forest, asking, even demanding, baptism. To the astonishment of Father Pieras, when asked her name, she told him: "Agueda." The old woman smiled. When he asked her to repeat it, she did: "Agueda." With her lisping version of Agreda, the old Salinan woman told a story that reverberated back three hundred years.

Agueda had heard about the San Antonio mission and, remembering childhood stories of men in such robes, she had come forward for eternal life. The two priests were dumbstruck. If Agueda were telling the truth, her kin's "priest" would have to have arrived in California by the seventeenth century. In 1542, Kumeyaay had told Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Diego "they were afraid because Spaniards were killing many Indians in the region." Was this Francisco Vasquez de Coronado on his elusive hunt for the Seven Cities of Cibola? But Coronado was close to one thousand miles southeast of the Valle de los Robles, in Arizona, with no record of leaving priests behind. Manila galleons piloted by Pedro de Unamuno and Sebastian Cermeno barely touched the California coast in 1587 and 1594, respectively, the former logging a few foggy days in Morro Bay and the latter's ship destroyed by storms at Drake's Bay. Cermeno met the Miwok briefly before limping south in a dinghy.

What really floored Pieras was Agueda's next assertion that the missionary of her ancestors "did not walk through the land, but flew." That must have raised Pieras's red eyebrows. When Palou heard the story in 1773 while passing through the Valley of the Oaks, he checked it out with other Indians, and it appears to have been in the common lore of the Salinans. Of course a flying man is not a flying woman. But how did Agueda get a name so close to that of the Blue Nun of the Southwest? Then Palou remembered Maria de Agreda, in her 1631 letter to Franciscans grilling her about her astounding claims of bilocation, says that two non-Spanish Franciscan priests were sent directly to the Southwest by St. Francis, and then suffered martyrdom. Again, this is too early for Father Kino (an Italian), but could there have been others who strayed off course?

There were other Indians in California who had similar stories of a flying Blue Nun, among them, the Santa Cruz mission Indians (probably Costanoan) just north of Carmel. And the legend lingered and even expanded to include in one nineteenth-century report, a "padre of the mamas" (with big breasts) who foretold white men coming.

Whether this was man, woman, hermaphrodite, or fIying squirrel, the point is that Serra's fixation with Maria de Agreda was not idiosyncratic among Franciscans, the viceroy, or even the king of Spain deep into the nineteenth century. It helped convince them that their movement into California was divinely ordained, especially in moments when the real-politik of what they were doing pulled inside them like an iron chain.

If, however, some anonymous priest had wandered long before Serra into the Valley of the Oaks, he may have left a telling mark. One day early in Mission San Antonio's life, Father Sitjar was led by Salinan scouts on a hard hike into the Santa Lucias. At about three thousand feet, they pointed to a cave filled with prehistoric petroglyphs, La Cueva Pintada.* On entering, Sitjar marveled at the crude drawings of what looked like a necklace of suns, spiky hands, little stick-figured humans, huge centipedes or waterbugs. But one image was unmistakable and startling: a prayer pole or a Christian cross*, perhaps even - because of a small cross-beam above the large one - a papal version. How is this explained? Sitjar certainly didn't carve it, and it is decidedly more carefully geometrical and even older than the glyphs, some of which are painted over it.

The Salinans explained that this was a site of their native religions' rites, and to prove their devotion to Christianity they would destroy it in front of the father. "No, no," he said, preferring to preserve not just their culture, but this strange, perhaps even miraculous symbol of his, a symbol, he insisted on pointing out, that was now theirs.'

*This cross is described in Frances Norris Rand Smith's book, 'The Mission of San Antonio de Padua (California)', Oxford University Press, 1932, p. 92, which says: 'As is shown, the proprotions are exceedingly crude, too crude to have been the work of any of the padres. The cross can be attributed to the natives only. It was another decoration for their cave and undoubtedly known to the Indians to have a religious significance.' The location of the cave is described (p. 89) as being five miles above San Antonio de Padua at the head of Pine Canyon. So we have three things that point to the presence of Maria de Agreda - (1) The use of the name 'Agueda', (2) the report of flying missionaries and (3) Christian crosses evidently being used for religious purposes. Either this is an extraordinary coincidence - or it isn't.

Mission San Antonio de Padua

The Valley of the Oaks - a few miles north-west of the mission. Junipero Serra Peak is in the background.

The Valley of the Oaks - Did she wander across this land?

A 1924 map of Santa Barbara National Forest. The area shaded yellow shows the head of Pine Canyon, location of La Cueva Pintada.

The cross in La Cueva Pintada.

Sor (Sister) María - other traditions (Caborca, New Mexico and The Alamo, Texas)

Other traditions, legends and folklore tales include the following:

'Dee Strickland Johnson’s 'Arizona Herstory', a collection of poetry based on Arizona folktales, relates a detailed dated folktale in which the Lady in Blue protects both the physical presence of Catholic Church in Arizona, as well as the Mexican citizenry, from invading American forces. ... The poem and its footnotes assert that an 160-men strong American filibuster [privateer] mission led by Henry Crabbe to Sonora in 1857 fought against the Mexican forces to assume control over the region. Then, the Americans attempted to cannon-blast a Catholic church. The cannon fuse was lit “half a dozen times” (Johnson 182), and each time, a woman wearing blue appeared, extinguishing the flame and preventing the church’s destruction. During the delay caused by the Lady in Blue’s intervention, Mexican reinforcements arrived, killing all the American troops except for sharpshooter Charlie Evans (who claimed to have given the Mexicans soldiers a cache of gold the soldiers had buried prior to the mission). Strickland cites James Griffith’s introduction to Margaret Proctor Redondo’s “Valley of Iron”* for the story; it is one of few originating in Arizona.' (Nogar, Anna Maria, 'La Monja Azul: The Political and Cultural Ramifications of a 17th-century Mystical Transatlantic Journey', University of Texas Dissertation, 2008, p. 236). The battle referred to is the Battle of Caborca of 1857. The church is La Purísima Concepción de Nuestra Señora de Caborca, Sonora, Mexico. The unsuccessful attempt to use a cannon against the church is recorded in contemporary accounts and one can apparently still see bullet marks on the walls of the church. In 1948 Caborca was renamed 'Heroica Caborca' in memory of this battle.

*Margaret Proctor Redondo and James S. Griffith, 'Valley of Iron: One Family's History of Madera Canyon', The Journal of Arizona History, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 233-274.

La Purísima Concepción de Nuestra Señora de Caborca (Church of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady of Caborca), Sonora, Mexico.

Tradition states that the Lady in Blue lives in an enchanted city under the Alamo (the Alamo Mission in San Antonio, Texas, site of the famous Battle of the Alamo of 1836, probably the most famous battle on American soil), returning once a generation to bequeath her gift of clear-sightedness on a native Texan woman of good character, for the benefit of her (Mexican American) community (De Zavala, Adina, 'History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions In and Around San Antonio', San Antonio: Privately published by the author, 1917, p. 61*). 'Indeed, in De Zavala’s hands, the Lady in Blue, as Hallenbeck and Williams comment, "is not a legendary character for she still lives”.' (Nogar, Anna Maria, 'La Monja Azul: The Political and Cultural Ramifications of a 17th-century Mystical Transatlantic Journey', University of Texas Dissertation, 2008, p. 250).

*'Out of the underground passages of the Alamo she comes once in a generation, or when her gift has lapsed, this Mysterious Woman in Blue. Her Gift is not to the first person she happens to meet - but she searches until she finds a worthy recipient. And, strange to tell, tradition says, she always selects a native Texan, of the same type of woman, tall, eyes of gray changeable with her moods, dark, fine hair not black. In character the woman is superior, pure and good, well-bred, intelligent, spiritual and patriotic. She may be young or old or middle-aged. Stranger yet, the woman to whom the Gift is given does not always know that she possesses the Gift of the Woman in Blue, though she is always ready to use her talents for the good of others. What is the Gift? The gift of seeing to the heart of things! She sees with the clear-eyed vision of a Joan of Arc all that may vitally affect, for good or ill, the people of her city and State whom she ardently loves with a strange devotion. All the children are her children all the people are to her friends, and brothers and sisters! There is no cant and no pretense; it is real. She is here now the Woman with the Gift for San Antonio, and oh, how we need her! She will help you and she will help me, if we find her! Who is she?
Tradition says she is always busy on the side of right, humanity, truth, justice and patriotism, that you can not keep her hidden or covered try as you might not in the whole city full because she has the Gift. She is a Mascot to those who help on her work, and the "Devil's Own Luck" to those who hinder. Find her if you are wise, search until you do. Who is she? She may be known by her works, perhaps, though the finest of that is in secret. If you are clear-eyed, she will be made manifest. Or another clue may be obtained from those who have tried to frustrate her work. They know who she is from the ill-luck which has followed them! If you need to see straight, and deep, find her. Do you need counsel and guidance? Trust to her. Tradition further says that she is always ready to help the rich, the poor, the artist, the artisan, the writer, the children, the whole people of her beloved Texas land. She has the Gift and therefore cannot choose but use it for San Antonio. Do you know her? If you do not profit by the Gift the fault is yours, not that of the Mysterious Woman in Blue, nor of the Woman who holds the precious Gift as Almoner for San Antonio.'

'The Alamo', San Antonio, Texas, is the most popular tourist site in Texas and is visited by 4 million people a year. It is the home of the Lady in Blue according to legend.

'The sacred taper's lights are gone,
Gray moss has clad the altar stone,
The holy image is overthrown,
The bell has ceased to toll.
The long ribbed aisles are burst and shrunk,
The holy shrine to ruin sunk,
Departed is the pious monk,
God's blessing on his soul!'

Adina De Zavala, 'History and Legends of The Alamo and Other Missions in and around San Antonio', San Antonio, 1917, p. 16.

Sor (Sister) María today

To illustrate how people feel about Sor María today, here are some comments made on a blog in 2012:

'I am from this area in New Mexico where she appeared and the local natives still have an annual procession to the place where she originally appeared. She is known as the Blue Lady of the Manzanos and her spot is marked by a shrine beneath a tall pine tree at the top of a high hill.... The people here are very devout Catholics and they provided shelter and aid for some of the Navajos (their former enemies), who were escaping from Bosque Redondo, their concentration camp on the Pecos River, in the 1860s... In New Mexico we are proud to have been the first people to recognize and honor the Virgin of Guadalupe and her loyal messenger, Ven. Maria de Agreda!' (Oso Pious - Mar 14, 2012)

'I live in Torreon, NM [New Mexico] a few miles from the shrine to the Blue Lady. Every year we process to the spot and offer a rosary and kneel there at the exact spot where she appeared... The memory of the Blue Lady is still strong and every year the whole village of Torreon and most of Manzano walk in procession, singing hymns of gratitude... Blessed Maria de Agreda was from the Immaculate Conception convent and she wore a blue Franciscan habit. To this day the older Indian pueblos and Spanish/Mexican residents still paint at least one of their windows or doors a blue color.' (Jacobo Chavez - Mar 15, 2012)

'I’ve been to Albuquerque three times and have celebrated Masses there. The renowned pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Rio Rancho, Msgr. Raun, when I asked him about the credibility of this phenomenon, told me that the priests of the Archdiocese believe it is true, particularly because Ven. María of Agreda’s spiritual director in Spain had testified to the facts of Agreda’s numerous bilocations to the New Mexico area.' (Truth Lover, Mar 16, 2012)

See also the article by Marilyn Fedewa 'Jumano Native Americans still revere Lady in Blue' ('Tradición', Winter 2008, pp. 18-20).

A mural portrait of Sor María at the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, Mountainair, New Mexico.

A mural portrait of Sor María by Mountainair Arts at the Abo Trading Post, Mountainair, New Mexico.

Modern folklore tales include William Jones Wallrich's children's book: 'The Strange Little Man in the Chili-Red Pants' (FortGarland, Cottonwood, 1949). 'About her feet flowers of blue sprang up.' ('The Blue Lady', p. 8). 'Everyone knew that she lived in a beautiful castle deep in the earth and that at times she came up to the surface to visit the earth people. And when she did so, she would grant wishes.' ('The Blue Lady', p. 7).

Texas Bluebonnets - 'About her feet flowers of blue sprang up.' (William Jones Wallrich, 'The Strange Little Man in the Chili-Red Pants', FortGarland, Cottonwood, 1949, 'The Blue Lady', p. 8).

'Lady Blue' bashes the Devil. Part of a one-hour puppet play 'Lady Blue's Dreams' by Puppet's Revenge of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Sor (Sister) María's 500 or more bilocation visits to New Mexico, Texas and Arizona - Can we believe it?

Well, those are the stories, traditions and legends about 'The Lady in Blue'. What should we make of them?

In order to assess the credibility of the accounts of Sor María's bilocations to the Jumanos it is essential to understand the sequence of events. Sor María apparently began to bilocate in 1620, when she was 18. The bilocations continued until 1631 but mainly ceased in 1623 when she prayed for an end to such experiences after she became aware that her fellow nuns, and an increasing circle of other people, knew about her religious ecstasies, and that not only was she the subject of widespread gossip but also that people had been secretly watching her during her religious ecstasies. In 1626 her confessor, Father Sebastian Marcilla, to whom she had naturally and correctly revealed details of her bilocations, wrote to the Archbishop of Mexico, Don Francisco de Manzo y Zúñiga, to say that 'It is very probable that in the course of the discovery of New Mexico and the conversion of those souls, there will soon be found a kingdom . . . more than four hundred leagues from the city of Mexico to the west and north, which it is understood is between New Mexico and la Quivira. . . . It will be of assistance to obtain information concerning three other kingdoms, one called Chillescas, the other that of the Jumanos, and the third that of the Carbucos... These being discovered, an effort shall be made to ascertain whether or not in them... there is any knowledge of our holy faith, and in what manner our Lord has manifested it.' In 1628 the Archbishop wrote to Father Alonso de Benavides, head (Custos) of the missions in New Mexico, instructing him to ask amongst the natives of 'Titlas' or 'Ticlas' (i.e. what became Texas) to see if they had any knowledge of the Faith and, if so, to ask how they acquired that knowledge. This letter apparently reached Father Alonso de Benavides at Isleta, New Mexico, on 3 June 1629 and, apparently, on 22 July 1629 a party of 50 Jumano Indians arrived at Isleta from the east asking for baptism and the setting up of a mission in their tribal homeland. The Jumanos had travelled to Isleta to make the same request every year for the preceding six years (since 1623) but the mission at Isleta was unable to spare any missionaries to meet their request. It has been argued that the Jumanos arrived earlier than 22 July and that this gave them time to hear stories about a nun preaching to the Indians but, as you will see below, it actually makes no difference whether they arrived before or after the Archbishop's letter reached Isleta. In 1630 de Benavides returned to Spain and wrote his famous 'Memorial' recounting the story of the conversion of the Jumanos but without mentioning Sor María. In 1631 he met Sor María in Ágreda and questioned her under oath with the permission of her superiors and in the presence of her confessors; he then wrote a letter to the missionaries in New Mexico enclosing a letter from Sor María. In 1634 he wrote a revised and expanded version of his 'Memorial' of 1630; this identified Sor María as the 'Lady in Blue'.

The critical point to note is that Sor María described her visits to the Jumanos to her confessor in Spain and it was the Jumanos who travelled year after year (from 1623 to 1629) to the missionaries at Isleta, New Mexico, requesting baptism and instruction in the Catholic faith.

The letter from Spain.

Church of St. Augustine, Isleta, New Mexico.

Church of St. Augustine, Isleta, New Mexico (interior 2012).

Detractors of the 'Lady in Blue' story have put forward three accusations, as follows:

1. That the Jumanos lied.
2. That Father Alonso de Benavides lied.
3. That Sor María lied.

The issue with detractors is that they are generally atheists who are looking to justify their atheism and so refuse to admit evidence that might disprove their atheism; so what they do not generally do is examine the evidence with an open mind. So they never say 'Could this be a miracle? Let's look at the evidence.', they say, in effect, 'I do not believe this could be a miracle therefore there must be some other explanation. I will look for that explanation and even if there is no direct evidence supporting that explanation I will adopt it if it could possibly explain what happened, even if the connection is tenuous or, in fact, non-existent beyond remote plausibility.' Atheists are terrified of miracles because it only takes one proven miracle to blow them out of the water (so to speak). Since the vast majority of miracles involve curing the sick it is easy to dismiss them with the words 'spontaneous remission'. Most other miracles are so old and so poorly documented that they can be ignored from a scientific point of view (they are unprovable) - but a non-medical miracle that is well-documented (and, even worse, recent) is another thing altogether. Still, from an atheist's point of view, such miracles must either be ignored (the usual choice - 'It would be an insult to my intelligence to even discuss such a thing!') or undermined in some way.

One thing you need to watch out for when considering the arguments of detractors is the way in which hypotheses (suggestions) are magically transformed into arguments which are then magically transformed into conclusions. A suggestion is an idea that something could have happened for the suggested reason but without supporting evidence (it is merely possible or even plausible); an argument is an assertion that the thing happened for a specified reason because there is supporting evidence to that effect; a conclusion is a decision that the thing did happen for specified reasons after weighing all the evidence, including the evidence supporting alternative arguments. The missing links in the detractors' 'arguments' are (1) the evidence that is needed to transform a suggestion into an argument and (2) the reasoning required to transform an argument into a conclusion - and, clearly, you cannot have reasoning in the absence of evidence (unless the reasoning is based on a self-evident truth or a reasonable assumption), so the absence of evidence is fatal to the whole process. The aim of this tactic is to sow doubt - and from doubt comes disbelief. How do you deal with this? Look at the actual evidence and use your common sense. Do the same to my arguments of course.

Let's examine each of these accusations in turn.

Did the Jumanos lie?

When the Jumanos told the missionaries at Isleta about the 'Lady in Blue' in 1629 they were either shown or saw on a wall of the mission a picture of a famous Spanish nun called Maria Luisa Ruiz de Colmenares de Solis (1565-1636) of the Convent of Santa Clara de Carrión (at Carrión de los Condes, Spain), known as Luisa de Carrión, who, like Sor María, was a nun of the Conceptionist Order. The Jumanos said that the lady who preached to them wore the same clothes (that is, the dress of the Conceptionist Order) but that she was young and beautiful, not old and rather plain like the nun in the picture (Sor Luisa de Carrión was 58 or thereabouts in 1623 whereas Sor Maria was 21, though the picture would have been done some time before of course). Nobody disputes this part of the story but detractors argue that the Jumanos wanted the Spanish to establish a presence in their homeland to protect them from other tribes (notably the Apache), that they heard that the missionaries were looking for information about a nun who preached to the Indians and that they invented a story about such a nun accordingly.

Luisa de Carrión (1565-1636). This picture is probably similar to the picture that the missionaries had at Isleta.

But the Jumanos had been requesting a mission for six years, since 1623 when Sor María apparently told them that she would no longer be able to visit them and instructed them to seek baptism from the missionaries at Isleta. Even if the Jumanos heard reports of a nun preaching to the Indians in 1629, they cannot possibly have heard any such reports before then because such reports did not reach New Mexico until 1629, as stated*. But perhaps they still made the request in those earlier years in order to obtain Spanish protection and merely added the story about the 'Lady in Blue' when they heard about her in 1629?

*According to the timeline prepared by Marilyn Fedewa ('María of Ágreda - Mystical Lady in Blue', p. 277 - see above) the Jumanos started to report encounters with a 'Lady in Blue' in 1626. This was two years before reports of a woman preaching to the Indians reached Mexico from Spain and three years before they reached New Mexico, so such reports by the Jumanos, if they were made in 1626, cannot have resulted from the Jumanos hearing tales of a woman preaching to the Indians.

There is a problem with this idea as well. While the missionaries at Isleta knew that the nun concerned was a certain Sor María de Ágreda, according to de Benavides second 'Report' of 1634, they did not know that Sor María was young and beautiful (there is no description of her appearance that I have found prior to de Benavides' letter to the missionaries of New Mexico in 1631, which, of course, would have been superfluous if they already knew what she looked like). In fact, Sor María is not mentioned in de Benavides report of 1630 (the original version of his revised and expanded 1634 report) at all, which implies (at the very least) that he did not positively link her to the 'Lady in Blue' at that time. In fact, according to Fedewa (p. 58), de Benavides though that the 'Lady in Blue' might be Luisa de Carrión, and that she appeared not only to have the power to bilocate but also had the power to make herself look young and beautiful.

In other words, the Jumanos cannot have heard a story about a young and beautiful nun preaching to the Indians because the missionaries themselves did not know that she was young and beautiful, even if they had heard of Sor María at that stage - and yet that is the story the Jumanos told. Similarly, neither de Benavides nor the missionaries can have prompted the Jumanos to tell a story about a young and beautiful nun for the same reason. What are the odds that the Jumanos would correctly guess such critical details about the very woman whose experiences had prompted the letter of 1626 to the Archbishop of Mexico in the first place?

More importantly, if the Jumanos invented the story why would they include critical details like that which might easily have turned out to be wrong, if the original story was not about a young and beautiful nun? (Jumano A: 'Let's tell the Spaniards that this woman they are talking about has preached to us; we'll say that she was young and beautiful.' Jumano B: 'Let's not, she could be old and ugly.') Surely, they would have kept their story as vague as possible and not have invented critical details which might be used to expose their lie? After all, it is the easiest thing in the world to be vague about such things ('We didn't see her face clearly.'). And if de Benavides prompted the Jumanos to tell such a story, why would he invent such a critical detail which he also must have known might be wrong? This would amount to 'putting his own head on the block'. And if de Benavides prompted the Jumanos to tell a story about a nun (but not a young and beautiful nun), why would they have added such important details if they wanted the lie to succeed? Surely, they would have done what they were told? It just doesn't add up. In short, if the Jumanos were lying they would not have invented such important details which they must have known might be wrong (because they had no information about the age or looks of the nun involved) and which they therefore knew might be used to expose their lie. In other words, the Jumanos did not invent the story of a 'Lady in Blue' because they included critical details which they cannot have obtained from the missionaries, which they cannot have known the truth of (unless the details were based on fact) and which would have exposed them as liars had the story turned out not to be about a young and beautiful nun.

A similar argument can be made about Sor María's blue cloak. To the Spaniards (missionaries and others) her blue cloak would not have been a noteworthy feature. They would simply have referred to her as 'a nun of the Conceptionist Order' or a 'Poor Clare' and to do otherwise would be like an American saying 'the red, white and blue American flag' to another American. There's a reason why you never hear anyone say such a thing - because it would be superfluous ('The red, white and blue American flag? As opposed to the green and yellow one, you mean?'). The colour of her cloak would certainly not have been mentioned in any of the correspondence or even discussed amongst the missionaries themselves. Similarly, the Spanish would never have referred to a Franciscan monk as 'a monk wearing a brown habit'; they would simply have said 'a Franciscan monk', because everyone knew that the Franciscans wore brown habits and the colour of their habits was an obvious fact that was also generally irrelevant. But to the Jumanos, of course, her blue cloak would have been the most noticeable thing about her. So we have a feature of her appearance which, logically, the Spaniards would never have mentioned amongst themselves but which would have been key to the Jumanos. So if the Spaniards never mentioned a 'Lady in Blue' where did the Jumanos get the idea from? Did they see a picture or statuette of the Virgin Mary wearing blue in the mission perhaps, which is another suggestion of detractors? Possibly, although it should be noted that the only 'Madonna' known to be in New Mexico at that time, 'La Conquistadora' (see below), was painted red and gold, not blue (Jaima Chevalier, 'La Conquistadora', Sunstone Press, Santa Fe, p. 74) - but why let awkward facts get in the way?

But this would mean that the Jumanos concocted a story about a 'Lady in Blue' by conflating (merging) a picture of Luisa de Carrión (old and plain) and a picture or statuette of the Virgin Mary (young and beautiful), not knowing who these people were, whether they were alive or dead or their names or their significance to the Spaniards? For all they knew Luisa de Carrión might have been the Queen of Spain - or Sheba - or de Benavides' mother-in-law (Jumanos (pointing to picture): 'We saw a woman dressed like that.' Missionary: 'But that's the Queen of Spain.' Jumanos: 'Maybe it was her sister.' Missionary: 'She hasn't got a sister.' Jumanos: 'How about her aunt?' etc. etc.). If they concocted a lie on this basis then they were certainly brave and imaginative liars - and they just happened to tell a story of a young and beautiful lady in blue wearing the dress of the Conceptionist order when the person the missionaries were looking for was (as it later turned out - but they didn't know it at the time) a young and beautiful lady in blue wearing the dress of the Conceptionist Order but without knowing that the person who gave rise to the story was (1) young or (2) beautiful or (3) wore blue or (4) was a member of the Conceptionist Order. Amazing. In fact, not just amazing but absolutely incredible.

Furthermore, T. D. Kendrick states, in his 'Mary of Agreda: The Life and Legend of a Spanish Nun' (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1967, p. 32) states: 'All the Jumanos, even when interrogated separately, told the same story [about being visited by a young and beautiful 'Lady in Blue'].'

Furthermore, the Jumanos didn't speak Spanish, so the idea of them overhearing anything becomes even more problematical.

Furthermore, when the missionaries returned with the Jumanos to their homeland from Isleta in 1629 they were met by crowds of Jumanos carrying crosses garlanded with flowers, who told them (the missionaries) that the 'Lady in Blue' had helped them (the Jumanos in the tribal homeland) to decorate the crosses earlier that same day and had sent them out to meet the missionaries. But how can the Jumanos in the tribal homeland possibly have known about the 'Lady in Blue' if the Jumanos who went to Isleta only learned about her after they got there? Did the Jumanos returning with the missionaries secretly send someone ahead to organize a 'reception' and say that the 'Lady in Blue' was responsible? But why would they do this when the missionaries were already on their way? That would be 'gilding the lily'. And what about the 'ambassadors from other neighbouring nations, the Quiviras and the Xapies, also pleading for baptism, because the same nun had preached to them' (de Benavides, 1634 report)? Were they also persuaded to 'come in on the act'? And if this part of the story was simply a lie invented by the missionaries who accompanied the Jumanos then those missionaries must have conspired with de Benavides to propagate this lie as part of a greater lie about a 'Lady in Blue'. This possibility is considered below.

The key point about the Jumanos is that they provided correct details (of a young and beautiful woman dressed in blue and wearing the habit of the Conceptionist Order) which they cannot have obtained from the Spaniards because the Spaniards either did not know those details themselves (her youth and beauty) or, if they did, would not have mentioned them because they would not have considered them noteworthy (her clothes). The other point is that the Jumanos simply didn't need to invent a story to obtain Spanish protection; all they had to do was to display a desire to learn about Christianity. The missionaries' sole objective was to establish missions to the Indian tribes; they did not need to be persuaded to do so (as long as they had the resources). In other words, if they could set up a mission for the Jumanos they would, if they couldn't they wouldn't - regardless of any miracles.

In fact, in his 1630 'Memorial', de Benavides specifically stated that they had already agreed to send missionaries back with the Jumanos before they asked them why they wanted to be baptised ('And so we immediately dispatched the said Father Salas, with another, his companion, who is the Father Fray Diego Lopez, whom the self-named Indians went with as guides. And before they went, we asked the Indians to tell us the reason why they were with so much concern petitioning for baptism, and for Religious to go to indoctrinate them.' - Sierra, Javier, 'The Lady in Blue', p. 338-9, quoting a translation of de Benavides 'Memorial' of 1630).

So we have a question: Why did the Jumanos describe a beautiful young woman in a blue cloak wearing the dress of the Conceptionist order? Because that is what they saw. It's common sense.

Did de Benavides lie?

De Benavides baptizing Indians.

One accusation of detractors of the 'Lady in Blue' story is that what de Benavides described in his reports of 1630 and 1634 (an expanded version of his 1630 report) was not an accurate representation of the facts; in other words, that it was a lie, whether he invented the story himself, prompted the Jumanos to tell a false story or exaggerated something he was told (either by the Indians or by Sor María). How likely is this? Consider this. In 1629 de Benavides, a senior cleric, head (Custos) of the missions in New Mexico and of the Inquisition in that region, invents a lie, either directly or using the Jumanos; a story about a 'Lady in Blue' preaching to the Indians. In 1630 he returns to Spain and publishes that lie before obtaining the 'co-operation' of Sor María in the lie (which, of course, was absolutely essential to the success of the lie). Only after publishing the lie does he meet with Sor María, in 1631, and somehow obtain her agreement to participate in it (detractors say that he must have over-awed Sor María). Detractors would presumably also say that since she lied to her own confessor about her bilocations in the first place (they having been an invention from the start) she would be happy to perpetuate the lie. Why not? The more the merrier. Having invented the lie, published it and obtained Sor María's agreement to participate in it, he then writes to the missionaries in New Mexico (the letter still exists) telling them the lie about the 'Lady in Blue'. The problem is that the missionaries in New Mexico, or some of them at least, knew the truth, or at least enough of the truth to know that it was a lie (if it was a lie). It would have been insane to have published a lie amongst people who knew the truth; no-one would do that. So, if de Benavides was lying then the only explanation for him writing to the missionaries in New Mexico is that they were in on the lie as well. If they were not in on the lie then it would only have taken a single letter ('What's all this nonsense about some 'Lady in Blue'?') to expose the whole deception and both de Benavides and Sor María would have been subject to the most severe punishment possible, public exposure, ridicule and possible excommunication; in short, utter ruin.

There is more. Even if all the missionaries in New Mexico at the time were in on the lie, it would only have taken one new missionary subsequently sent to New Mexico to ask the Jumanos about the 'Lady in Blue' and the whole lie would have been (or could have been) exposed at that stage. If de Benavides had succeeded in using the lie to obtain his own appointment as Bishop of a new Bishopric of New Mexico (another allegation of detractors), his career would have ended very abruptly at that time. No, the more we look at this accusation the less sense it makes for de Benavides to have lied about the Jumanos and the 'Lady in Blue'; the risks were too great, the number of people who would have had to have participated in the lie too many. Furthermore, of course, the Jumanos were merely one of many Indian tribes and their conversion (however miraculous) was only a small part, in numerical terms, of the conversions described by de Benavides in his report (the 111-page document described over 60,000 Christianized natives residing in 90 pueblos, divided into 25 districts). In other words, it simply wasn't worth his while to lie about the Jumanos because they just weren't that significant in the grand scheme of things (everyone believed that the missionaries were doing God's work in New Mexico without having to have a miracle to prove it) and the risks of telling a lie about them were out of all proportion to the possible benefits. Spain was already committed to the conversion of the Indians, as is proved by the sending of the additional missionaries in 1629, so the miraculous conversion of an Indian tribe was simply not needed to bolster the missionary effort in that area. 'As Hammond and Rey comment, with King Felipe III's [1578-1621] decision to retain New Mexico for purposes of conversion and evangelization, the course the colony would take was "securely set for the next three hundred years".' (Nogar, Anna Maria, 'La Monja Azul: The Political and Cultural Ramifications of a 17th-century Mystical Transatlantic Journey', University of Texas Dissertation, 2008, p. 56). 'Abandonment of the area was not conceivable. This was because of Spain's sense of Christian mission that came out of their own peculiar history. It is beyond our purposes to go into that history in this article, except to say the Spanish were a crusading society, and they had acquired a keen sense of responsibility for all peoples to receive the Santa Fe (Holy Faith).' (Plocheck, Robert, 'Franciscan Missionaries in Texas before 1690', Texas Almanac 2004–2005). It is clear therefore that de Benavides did not lie either; he had everything to lose and very little to gain.

Furthermore, de Benavides acquired one of the rosaries which Sor María gave to the Indians, which he wanted to be buried with him, and he also acquired (from another nun it seems) the cloak or one of the cloaks that Sor María wore during her bilocation visits to the American South-West. Whether we believe that Sor María actually bilocated to America, de Benavides clearly did. These actions are the actions of a man who believed in Sor María's bilocations, not a trickster who invented a story about a 'Lady in Blue'. Whatever we believe, it is absolutely clear what de Benavides believed.

T. D. Kendrick ('Mary of Agreda: The Life and Legend of a Spanish Nun', Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1967) says (p. 55): 'And it was faith in Indian bombastic talk that inspired [Juan de Oñate's] expedition to Quivira in 1601, the year before Mary of Ágreda was born, and just under thirty years before the Jumanos, in answer to interrogation, readily agreed that they had been visited in their homeland by a nun wearing a habit like that in the portrait of Luisa de Carrión. All this [being instances of Indians lying to the Spaniards] means that it is not unfair to suggest that the gullibility of Father Benavides must almost have equalled that of Father Marcos of Nice, and that the tale of their nun told by the Jumanos, assuredly with the Virgin Mary in mind, was as fictitious as a tale told by the Turk [an Indian who misled Coronado with tales about 'cities of gold' in 1541].' Let me get this straight. According to Kendrick, de Benavides asks the Jumanos whether they have been visited by a 'Lady in Blue' and then gullibly accepts their response when they answer in the affirmative? So, he prompts them for a particular answer and then gullibly accepts the answer he prompted them for? Eh?

Furthermore, de Benavides 'Memorial' of 1630 states 'And so we immediately dispatched the said Father Salas, with another, his companion, who is the Father Fray Diego Lopez, whom the self-named Indians went with as guides. And before they went, we asked the Indians to tell us the reason why they were with so much concern petitioning for baptism, and for Religious to go to indoctrinate them. They replied that a woman like that one we had there painted - which was a picture of Luisa de Carrión - used to preach to each of them in their own tongue, telling them that they should come to summon the Fathers to instruct and baptize them, and that they should not be slothful about it.' (Sierra, Javier, 'The Lady in Blue', p. 338-9, quoting a translation of de Benavides 'Memorial' of 1630). In other words, the Jumanos did not 'readily agree' to a question as to whether they had been visited by a Lady in Blue', as Kendrick claims; they were asked why they wanted baptism and replied that it was because a 'Lady in Blue' told them to do so. There is a huge difference between:

Question: 'Have you been visited by a 'Lady in Blue'?'
Answer: 'Yes.'

and:

Question: 'Why are you asking to be baptized?'
Answer: 'Because a 'Lady in Blue' told us to.'

We can see that Kendrick has not only seriously distorted the evidence but that he contradicts himself in the space of one paragraph by saying that de Benavides prompted the Jumanos to lie and then gullibly accepted the lie he prompted them to tell. This is simply preposterous nonsense.

Furthermore, Kendrick says (p. 35): 'Mary, subjected to what must have been a non-stop stream of leading questions and broad hints [from de Benavides]...'. Later on (p. 55) he says: 'All this [being instances of Indians lying to the Spaniards] means that it is not unfair to suggest that the gullibility of Father Benavides must almost have equalled that of Father Marcos of Nice, and that the tale of their nun told by the Jumanos, assuredly with the Virgin Mary in mind, was as fictitious as a tale told by the Turk [an Indian who misled Coronado with tales about 'cities of gold' in 1541].' So it appears that de Benavides was both stupid and clever at the same time; stupid to accept a lie by the Jumanos but clever enough to lead Sor María to agree to his version of events. The former implies that he believed the lie and the latter implies that he didn't - so he was both stupid and clever and believed the lie and didn't believe it. This is sheer nonsense. It illustrates how detractors tie themselves up in knots in an effort to undermine the 'Lady in Blue' story.

Furthermore, detractors, like Kendrick, argue that de Benavides used leading questions to get Sor María to agree to his version of events (or something along those lines), yet in his letter to the New Mexico missionaries de Benavides wrote that, shortly after he arrived back in Spain on 1 August 1630, he met with the Franciscan Father-General, Bernadino de Siena, later Bishop of Viseo, who told him (de Benavides) that 'the same thing I [de Benavides] related [to Bernadino de Siena] had been told by Mother María de Jesús herself in the said years before, when he [Bernadino de Siena] went in person to visit her convent'. In other words, Father Bernadino de Siena confirmed that the story that de Benavides told him about the 'Lady in Blue' had been told to him (Bernadino de Siena) by Sor María some years before. This confirms that de Benavides and Sor María's accounts tallied, in the essentials ('the same thing'), before they met. Of course, if Father Bernadino de Siena never made this statement then de Benavides would have been reckless in the extreme to have publicly claimed that he did. In addition, de Benavides interviewed Sor María in the presence of the Provincial, Father Sebastian Marcilla, and the nun’s confessor, Father Andrés de la Torre, who were both already familiar with her story (it was Marcilla who had written to the Archbishop of Mexico in the first place) and they would have noticed if de Benavides had tried to 'lead' Sor María into changing her story. In short, de Benavides would have found it extremely difficult to 'lead' Sor María in any way because three people already knew the details of Sor María's bilocations (her confessor in considerable detail since she would have reported every instance to him).

The key points about de Benavides are (1) that the risks arising from inventing a lie about a 'Lady in Blue' far outweighed any potential benefits, (2) that far too many people would have had to have been in on the lie to make it feasible, (3) that he published the story about a 'Lady in Blue' before meeting Sor María and (4) that he clearly believed sincerely in the story of the 'Lady in Blue'. It is also worth stating that he was clearly a devout man who dedicated his life to the service of God; we are not dealing with a second-hand car salesman.

So we can dismiss the idea that de Benavides invented a story of a 'Lady in Blue' or told the Indians to invent such a story or led Sor María into exaggerating her story.

De Benavides' report of 1630.

Did Sor María lie?

The key argument put forward by detractors of the 'Lady in Blue' story is that when Sor María was examined by the Inquisition in 1650 she denied or retracted much of what she had said earlier about her bilocations; in other words, that she effectively admitted that her earlier claims were untrue.

The first point to note is that anything said during an interrogation by the Inquisition was very likely to have been driven by fear; in other words, said under duress (that is, said in fear of a possible harmful consequence as opposed to freely said with no fear of any consequence); even her detractors accept this. Such statements are therefore inherently unreliable from a legal point of view and must be treated with extreme caution - not that they are necessarily wrong of course. A person under investigation by the Inquisition was very likely to try to 'play down' the significance of the matter under investigation ('I didn't really mean what I said.'; 'It was a slight exaggeration.'; 'They must have misunderstood me.' and so on).

The second point to note is that Sor María's confessor, Father Sebastian Marcilla, clearly only wrote to the Archbishop of Mexico in 1626 about her preaching to the Indians because he believed that there was a serious possibility that it had actually happened. In other words, Sor María obviously said that she believed that she had, or appeared to have, preached to the Indians and her confessor took what she said seriously enough to actually write to the Archbishop of Mexico to seek confirmation (or otherwise) of it. Not surprisingly, she couldn't be sure about what exactly had happened to her; that is, whether she had gone in person to the American South-West or, as she put it, an angel in her form had done so (that is, some manifestation of her).* Sor María's and her confessor's conduct in the earlier period is a far more reliable indication of what they believed at that time than statements made more than twenty-five years later during an interrogation by the Inquisition.

*Padre Pio (St. Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968) said of bilocation that "He knows what he wants, knows where he goes, but he doesn't know if it's the body or the mind that goes." and "There is an urgency, a grave danger, a soul or a body to save".

The third point to note is that, in 1650, Sor María most definitely did not retract the essential facts about her bilocations between 1620 and 1631; in fact she affirmed the truth of them. While she said that she was, quite understandably, horribly afraid of signing the 1631 statement recording what she had told de Benavides and, because of that, she hardly knew what she was doing in signing the document, and that the document contained some exaggerations (which she thought de Benavides got from her fellow nuns or others), she nonetheless stated ('The Visions of Sor Maria de Agreda: Writing Knowledge and Power', by Clark A. Colahan, University of Arizona Press, 1994, p. 127): 'My considered opinion of this whole case is that it actually happened, but the way and the 'how' are not easily known since it happened so many years ago; since the Indians said they had seen me, either I myself or some angel who looked like me did go there.'

After her interrogation by the Inquisition in 1650, the Inquisitor, Antonio Gonzalo del Moral, wrote in his report: 'She satisfied all principal essentials of the examination with humility and truth... She embroidered no fiction into her accounts, nor was she deluded by the Devil.' These accounts included her describing physically giving rosaries to the Indians ('On one occasion I gave the Indians some rosaries...'), talking to them ('our discussions included...') and physically seeing angels, as opposed to seeing angels in a vision ('...sometimes they do manifest on a more corporeal level. In this case the angels take on more of an aerial body, which is possible to see.') (Fedewa, 'María of Ágreda - Mystical Lady in Blue', pp. 173,181).

My personal view of the 1650 interrogation is that Sor María was very afraid of it because she knew that she was quite likely to be condemned regardless of the truth of the matter (in other words, the Inquisition wouldn't believe in her bilocations even if they did happen), that she tried to play down the significance of what had happened (while still telling the truth) and that her statement to the effect that she was not fully aware of what she was doing in signing the 1631 statement gave the Inquisitor a way out by allowing him to say that, in his view, her signing of the 1631 statement was a youthful indiscretion. Well, it was indiscreet (although, of course, she was acting under her oath of obedience), simply because it gave rise to the possibility of an investigation, but that leaves unanswered the main question of whether the 1631 statement was true or not. So del Moral had his cake and ate it; he said two apparently contradictory things. On the one hand he said that the 1631 statement was a youthful indiscretion (which is true but not relevant to the issue of whether what she said in the statement was true); on the other hand he said that she told the truth (which necessarily means that he concluded that she truthfully described what had actually happened to her).

We can only conclude therefore that Sor María believed that she did actually preach to the Indians but that she was, not surprisingly, unsure about how it happened. So my conclusion is that Sor María truthfully recounted what happened to her between 1620 and 1631 in that period and that she affirmed the truth of what she said during the interrogation by the Inquisition in 1650, in spite of the terrible risks (one nun condemned by the Inquisition in that period was sentenced to 200 lashes and life imprisonment).

The key point about Sor María is that she not only clearly told the truth about what had happened to her between 1620 and 1631 at that time but also that she affirmed the truth of what she had said at that time when interrogated by the Inquisition in 1650. The other point is that she was clearly a devout Christian of the highest moral principles who avoided any form of publicity; she lived a life of 'heroic virtue'.

It sounds fairly plausible, on the face of it, to argue that the Jumanos invented a story about a 'Lady in Blue' because they wanted protection from the Apaches, that de Benavides took part in or originated that invention because he wanted to become Bishop of a new Bishopric of New Mexico and that Sor María was simply deluded, or a liar, or a deluded liar, or a frightened deluded liar, but when you ask some fairly common sense questions these ideas simply fall apart, as I think I have shown.

In my view we are left with only one possible conclusion; namely that the Jumanos did tell of a 'Lady in Blue' and that they did so truthfully, that de Benavides accurately reported the matter and that Sor María truthfully reported what had happened to her. Given this, how can we assess whether the story is true; that is, how can we decide whether or not Sor María did actually bilocate and to what standard (degree of certainty)?

Sor (Sister) María's 500 bilocation visits to Arizona, New Mexico and Texas - What would a modern court of law say?

Fortunately, there is an answer to hand using the rules of civil courts of law. The two relevant rules in this situation are (1) the rule that the standard of proof in civil cases is the balance of probabilities (that is, more likely than not - greater than 50% probability), determined by weighing the evidence before the court, not on the basis of 'I refuse to believe it', and (2) the rule that a court must accept the evidence of a witness unless that evidence is contradicted by other more reliable evidence or the credibility of the witness can be discounted for some other reason.* In other words, a court is not free to say 'We don't believe you' without good reason because any decision of a court, including a decision about the reliability of a witness or the weight to be attached to evidence, must be supported by adequate reasons (and can be challenged by way of appeal if it isn't). This means that when 50 witnesses say that they have seen a 'Lady in Blue' the court is bound to conclude that they have actually done so, absent good reasons to the contrary as described. Why or how they saw such a thing is not a question the court needs to address in answering this question, except as described below. In other words, a civil court would be bound to conclude that the Jumanos actually did see a 'Lady in Blue', as they described, and that she did the things they said she did, regardless of our inability to explain how she got there.

*'the Family Law Reform Act 1969 s 26 states that the presumption [of paternity] can be rebutted upon the balance of probabilities, which means, according to Lord Reid in S v S, W v Official Solicitor (or W) [[1972] AC 24 at 41], that even weak evidence must prevail if there is no other evidence to counterbalance it and, in the light of the subsequent House of Lords decision in Re H (Minors) (Sexual Abuse: Standard of proof) [[1996] AC 563], this would seem to be the current position.' (Professor N Lowe, Professor of Law, 'The Establishment of Paternity under English Law', p. 88). Applying this rule generally, this means that, where the standard of proof is the balance of probabilities, even weak evidence must be accepted if there is no evidence to counterbalance it (though the testimony of 50 witnesses is not weak evidence of course). The cases cited are House of Lords cases, which means that they are binding on all courts.

To illustrate this argument, imagine the court of an isolated New Guinea tribe which happens to observe these two common-sense rules of our civil courts. A group of 50 tribesmen testify that they have seen a white man (something previously unknown to them) who came down from the sky in a metal bird (that is, a helicopter). Now the tribal court could refuse to accept the evidence on the basis that there is no such thing as a white man or a metal bird that can fly. But if the court were to apply the rules it would accept the evidence presented to it, even if the judges personally regarded that evidence as unbelievable. Now we know that the court would be right to do so because white men and helicopters do actually exist. So, for a modern court to refuse to accept the evidence about a 'Lady in Blue' would make that court more primitive (in effect, more superstitious) than the court of a New Guinea tribe which had never seen a white man or a helicopter but which is prepared to accept reliable evidence that they exist.

'It's obvious innit!'

Consider rainbows as another example. We see them, we know they happen but, until recently, we didn't understand why they happen. But it would have been nonsensical to have said 'I don't understand why rainbows happen therefore they don't happen. I refuse to believe the evidence of any witnesses to the effect that they do happen.' Yet this is effectively what most people would say about Sor María's bilocations.

Rainbow - 'Sorry, can't explain it therefore it didn't happen.'

An even better example is the well-known phenomenom of a 'murmuration' (flock) of starlings which, as millions of people will testify, change direction simultaneously even in flocks of thousands. Scientists have developed various theories to account for this (such as the theory that each bird monitors its seven nearest neigbours) but 'How starlings achieve such a strong correlation remains a mystery to us', according to researchers led by University of Rome theoretical physicist Giorgio Parisi in a paper ('Scale-free correlations in starling flocks') of 11 May 2010 (see Brandon Keim, 'Amazing Starling Flocks Are Flying Avalanches', Wired.com, 16 June 2010). So here we have something that undeniably happens but which science can't explain. Of course, scientists refuse to come to the obvious conclusion that the since the starlings are clearly communicating amongst themselves and are demonstrably not doing so physically across the whole flock instantaneously, they must be doing so mentally; that is, telepathically. So they leave the question open*. But what should a court of law say? That because it can't be explained that it therefore cannot happen? Clearly not. So this proves that the law must accept that things can happen based on observable evidence even though they cannot be explained.

*However, the paper ('Scale-free correlations in starling flocks') does conclude 'Our empirical results, together with further study on the role of criticality in animal groups, may contribute to move the fascinating “collective mind” metaphor (31, 32) to a more quantitative level.'

Starlings. Very annoying to scientists. See this Youtube video. Note, for example, at 34 seconds when a flock changes direction by 180º instantaneously together.

A court can accept evidence that an assertion is impossible, if such evidence exists, but this cannot be done in this case. We cannot prove that bilocation is impossible, even on the balance of probabilities. A person can only say 'I don't believe that bilocation is possible', but that is not evidence that can be accepted in a court of law, for the following reason. An ordinary (that is, non-expert) witness can only testify on matters of fact, such as 'I saw Mr. Brown trip over the kerb.' An expert witness can give opinions on matters in which he is an expert, such as 'In my opinion man could fly to Mars.' But what could any expert say about the power to bilocate? The most an expert (Are there any experts in bilocation?) could say is 'I tried it but it didn't work so, in my opinion, it is impossible.' Could a court accept that this necessarily means that bilocation is impossible, even on the balance of probabilities? The short answer is 'No'. Everything we can explain today was inexplicable at one time (fire, tides, gravity, flight and so on), so the fact that something is inexplicable now does not necessarily mean that it will remain so for ever - or that it cannot happen. No court could possibly issue a judgment that it does. The fact that a certain thing cannot be explained only reflects the complexity of the thing or lack of research into it. In other words, it is easier, for instance, to explain tides than to explain the origins of the universe. This means that if reliable evidence exists that a certain thing occurred but no-one can explain how it occurred, then all a court can do is conclude that the thing happened but that it cannot be explained. If this was not the case then all courts would have to say that anything that cannot be explained cannot happen - and that really would be nonsensical. The approach a court must take is therefore (1) It must accept that things happen that we can't explain (that is, we cannot say that something cannot have happened simply because we can't explain it) and (2) It follows that if there is reliable evidence that a certain thing happened then it must accept that it did happen even if it can't be explained. Is there anything that a court of law can assume is impossible? Well, no, a court must make decisions based on evidence; if evidence exists then a court must weigh that evidence. In other words a court could never say 'The cow cannot have jumped over the moon', it would have to say 'OK, you say that the cow jumped over the moon - prove it.' We can say that, according to the laws of science as we currently understand them, bilocation is impossible (that is, an atom - physical matter - cannot be in two places at the same time), but the critical qualifier is the words 'as we currently understand them'; we cannot say, without qualification, that bilocation is impossible or that what appears to be bilocation is not actually some other phenomenon, possibly including a physical 'projection' of a person to another place. If we accept that it is physically impossible for two atoms to be in two different places at the same time and therefore that, if it happens, 'bilocation' can only consist of creating some sort of physical 'projection' of the person at another place, then where is the person in the eyes of the law - with their original body or their duplicate body? My view is that the person is where their consciousness is, which means that if Sor María remembered actually talking to Indians then that is where her consciousness was at that time and so that is where, in law, she was (you will appreciate that this is not an issue that has been considered by a court before).

A court can also reject an assertion that a person was at a certain place at a certain time if it can be proved that the person was at another place at that time. But what should a court conclude where there is reliable evidence that the person was in two places at the same time? If the evidence leads to that conclusion, the court must conclude that the person was in two places at the same time. Let us assume that you discover the secret of bilocation. How would you prove that you could bilocate? By proving that you were in two places at the same time. You would be 'stopped at the first fence' if the court started with an assumption (even an apparently reasonable assumption) that being in two places at the same time is impossible. But a court cannot start with that assumption because the whole purpose of a court is to reach a conclusion based on the evidence; if it doesn't do that it is no more a court of law than a witchdoctor's hut.

In other words, we have evidence (the testimonies of the Jumanos and other tribes, de Benavides and other people, and Sor María as discussed above) sufficient to prove that, on the balance of probabilities, the bilocations actually happened but, against that, we do not have evidence sufficient to prove that they cannot have happened, either on the basis that bilocation is inherently impossible or on the basis that it cannot have happened because Sor Maria never left her convent in Spain. With respect to the latter, being in two places at once is what bilocation is, so proving that Sor Maria was always in her convent in Spain is part of the evidence needed to prove bilocation, not disprove it. If we prove that Sor Maria never left her convent in Spain and prove (to an equal standard of proof) her presence in the American South-West then we have proved that bilocation took place. No-one has disputed the former and we have just proved the latter. This is the key. If a court accepts evidence that Sor Maria was in her convent in Spain, how can it reject evidence of equal veracity that she was in the American South-West? The rules must be applied consistently.

So, what we are left with is (1) the court must conclude that, on the balance of probabilities, the Jumanos did see a 'Lady in Blue', (2) the court must conclude that, on the balance of probabilities, that 'Lady in Blue' was Sor María (bearing in mind, in particular, the two-way identification between Sor María and the Indian chief, Tuerto - and the giving of rosaries described below) and (3) the court cannot conclude that, on the balance of probabilities, Sor María cannot have bilocated from Spain to the American South-West, either on the basis that bilocation is inherently impossible or on the basis that the fact that Sor Maria was in her convent at a certain moment proves that she cannot have been anywhere else at that moment. In other words, the court must accept that Sor María was present in the American South-West even though it cannot explain how she got there.

We must conclude that she was physically present in the American South-West (that is, not some sort of apparition that appeared to the Indians) because there is reliable evidence to the effect that she gave the Indians rosaries*, helped them to decorate crosses with flowers, was twice shot with arrows (martyred) by Indians of other tribes (as described below) and, on one occasion, physically pushed some Indians into a church for baptism when they were reluctantly hanging back at the door (This was at the church of Nuestra Señora de Perpetuo Socorro (Our Lady of Perpetual Succour), Socorro, New Mexico, on 3 Aug 1626, as described above). We can't explain these things any more than the New Guinea tribesmen can explain how a helicopter works but that doesn't mean that they didn't happen. Of course many people will throw all the rules of court out of the window and just say 'I refuse to believe it, so there!' but it would be illogical, unscientific and unlawful for them to do so (that is, not in accordance with the law as explained above); in fact, it would be superstitious (meaning a belief not based on evidence). We must resist the temptation not to believe the evidence just because we don't like the conclusion it leads to.

*Father Alonso de Benavides apparently obtained one of these rosaries and asked that it should be buried with him. He died on his way to Goa in 1635 and was presumably buried at sea. Thus was lost one of the most remarkable artefacts in the history of the world - a physical item that miraculously travelled from Spain to the American South-West. Of course there are other items still in existence, such as Sor María's blue cloak (pictured above), that also travelled from Spain to the American South-West.

So, to reiterate, we have three issues: (1) 'Were the Jumanos telling the truth about seeing a 'Lady in Blue'?' (2) 'Was that 'Lady in Blue' Sor María?' and (3) 'If the answer to the first two questions is 'Yes' then how did Sor María travel from Spain to the American South-West?' When split into separate issues like this the matter becomes easier to deal with. We have dealt with the first two in accordance with the rules of civil law courts and the answer to both is 'Yes'. Having answered the first two questions we are left with a problem; Sor María definitely travelled from Spain to the American South-West and we have established that a court of law would say so - we just don't know how.

But that is not the end of the matter, not by a long way, because the Jumano incident is just one of many instances where various Indian tribes over a wide area told of similar incidents over a period of many years, including some well after Sor Maria's death (but mostly concerning events in her lifetime) - often without prompting and when there can have been no possible benefit from inventing stories of a 'Lady in Blue' (i.e. one of the main planks of the 'anti-Jumano' argument - having a motive to lie - falls to the ground). There are simply too many well-documented incidents from too many sources from too large an area over too long a period for them all to be discounted out of hand (though some would appear to be legends, such as the idea that she now lives beneath The Alamo); not that this prevents people from doing exactly that of course.

In addition, Father Alonso de Benavides returned to Spain and personally interviewed Sor María. He came to the conclusion that she was telling the truth and that she can only have gained her exact and detailed knowledge of the area, the Indian tribes, the missionaries and so on (much of which he could confirm personally of course) by having actually been there. There was, in his opinion, simply no other possible explanation. As already stated, in 1650 the Spanish Inquisition interrogated her at length and in great detail about her experiences (she was on her knees in front of a tribunal for 11 days and had to answer 80 pre-prepared questions) but, far from condemning her, they ended up clearing her of any falsehood or error. The Inquisitor, Antonio Gonzalo del Moral, wrote in his report: 'She satisfied all principal essentials of the examination with humility and truth... She embroidered no fiction into her accounts, nor was she deluded by the Devil.' These accounts included her describing physically giving rosaries to the Indians, talking to them and physically seeing angels (as opposed to seeing angels in a vision) (Fedewa, 'María of Ágreda - Mystical Lady in Blue', pp. 173,181). In this context we must remember that the Spanish Inquisition was very much alive to the possibility of false prophets, false visions (whether produced 'by the Devil' or just an overheated brain), heretics, impostors, fraudsters, cranks and so on and showed no compunction in ruthlessly hunting down and exposing such people, who were regarded as positively harmful to the Church. We know from specific examples that even Archbishops and close advisors of the King were not immune. The Archbishop was Hernando de Talavera (1428-1507), Archbishop of Granada; the advisor of the King was Geronimo de Villanueva (1594-1653), Marqués of Villalba, Secretary to King Philip IV, who was arrested in 1644. Luisa de Carrión herself, who apparently also had the gift of bilocation, was condemned by the Inquisition in 1636 in spite of her enormous popularity in Spain (her arrest led to serious riots), the fact that King Philip III himself had visited her and that she was officially defended by the Bishop of Valladolid and the Franciscan Order. It must have been a terrifying experience for Sor Maria, knowing that Luisa de Carrión, a nun of her own order who had recounted similar bilocation experiences, had been condemned by the Inquisition not many years before. In other words, on the evidence of their past conduct, any claim of bilocation was more than likely to be condemned by the Inquisition and result in severe punishment. The man who ordered the interrogation of Sor Maria in 1650 was the same man who ordered the arrest of the King's Secretary in 1644, Inquisitor-General Arce y Reynoso. Evidently he was not afraid of accusing even those closest to the King, so any claim that Sor Maria was treated leniently because of her connection to the King can be dismissed.

Luisa de Carrión being led away after her condemnation by the Inquisition in 1636. Sadly, she died shortly afterwards. Her name was later cleared.

So, if the bilocations never happened then the whole thing was a giant fraud on the part of Sor Maria (a nun who lived a life of 'heroic virtue' and sought to avoid all publicity, including publicity about her bilocations) and de Benavides (not just head (Custos) of the missions in New Mexico but actually head of the Inquisition in New Mexico as well), and all the stories told by various Indian tribes across a vast area over several centuries were false, either invented or recounted on a hearsay ('I have heard it said') basis. The mother of the Tejas chief who said that she had seen the 'Lady in Blue' lied to her own son (this is the Tejas chief who, at Weches, Texas, in 1690, asked Father Damien Massanet for blue cloth for a shroud). Sor Maria's confessors and superiors and all the people who repeatedly investigated her and cleared her of any falsehood or error were misled or were themselves lying, including the two investigations by the Inquisition - people whose function it was to expose precisely this sort of fraud and who had done so in the case of another nun of the same order (Luisa de Carrión) not long before (in 1636). It is easy to try to undermine some specific event by suggesting some plausible reason like 'Well, perhaps the Indians asked for conversion because they wanted protection from the Apaches' or something like that, but if the whole thing is untrue then we are dealing with a web of deceit, falsehood, error and blindness to the facts on an astonishing scale. But this is all supposition; what matters is the evidence. All we have to do is to examine the evidence according to the standards of a modern court of law. No-one could object to that. We have now done that.

Where does that leave us? Well, we have to believe the unbelievable - either that or throw law and reason out of the window.

So, believe the unbelievable. No faith is required, just law and reason applied to the evidence.

On this basis we can ask 'Who was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic - Amelia Erhart in 1928 or Sor María in 1620?' For the reasons given above, a court of law would have to say that it was Sor María in 1620. I think I'll write to the Guinness Book of Records.

Bilocation in the Roman Catholic Church

'The Church has never been afraid of demonstrating that there cannot be any conflict between faith and genuine science, because both, albeit via different routes, tend towards the truth.' (Pope Benedict XVI, 'Porta Fidei', Rome, 11 Oct 2011, para. 12).

Our Lady of the Pillar appearing to St. James the Greater in AD40.

The phenomenon of bilocation was officially accepted within the Roman Catholic Church on 7 August 1723 when the Sacred Congregation of Rites (now the Congregation for the Causes of Saints) approved the account of the bilocation of the Virgin Mary from Jerusalem (or Ephesus), where she was then living, to Zaragoza, Spain on 2 January AD40 when she appeared to St. James the Greater as Our Lady of the Pillar. Note that this was a bilocation rather than an apparition because the Virgin Mary was alive at the time.

Another saint whose bilocations appear to have been accepted by the Church (or, at least, whose reported bilocations did not stand in the way of his canonization) is St. Pio of Pietrelcina (1887-1968) ('Padre Pio'). See this article at 'Miracles of the Saints' for more information.

Padre Pio (1887-1968)

The following report is taken from here. See also Renzo Allegri, 'I Miracoli di Padre Pio', Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.P.A., Milano (Italy), 1993, pp. 110-111; Rino Cammilleri, 'Storia Di Padre Pio', Edizioni Piemme Spa. (Italy), 1993, pp. 81-82; Gente Magazine, Vol. 38, July 18, 1994, pp. 44-45.

General Bernardo Rosini of the United Air Command reported that 'Each time that the pilots returned from their missions, they spoke of this Friar that appeared in the sky and diverted their airplanes, making them turn back. Everyone was talking about these incredible stories. But since the episodes kept recurring, the Commanding General of USAF General Nathan F. Twining, who happened to be in Bari, decided to pilot himself a squadron of bombers to destroy a target near San Giovanni Rotondo. When he and his pilots were in the vicinity of the target, they saw the figure of a monk with upraised hands appear in the sky. The bombs got loose from the planes falling in open areas, and the planes made a sharp turn to return to base without the pilots intervening. Back on the ground, everybody asked everybody else about the happening and wanted to know who was that friar. The General was told about Padre Pio and decided to visit him with the pilots in that squadron. The pilots immediately recognized Padre Pio, and he told the general: "So you are the one that wanted to destroy everything."' The general become a friend of Padre Pio.

General Bernardo Rosini of the United Air Command.

General Nathan F. Twining, USAF, Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force (1953-57), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1957-60).

A Presbyterian, Colonel Loyal Bob Curry of Birmingham Alabama served on the 464th Bomb Group of the 15th Air Force at the Base in Spinazzola under commanding general Nathan F. Twining from December 1944 until his plane was shot down and he was imprisoned by the Germans a month later, reported this as well saying "Everybody was talking about it, both the American servicemen as well as the Italians who took care of the quarters."

Lt. Col. Loyal B. "Bob" Curry (1924-2011)

Alfonso D'Artega serving at the Air Base of Amendola reported: 'One of the pilots said: "I saw the phantom fly again." Another pilot saw a figure of a monk flying as fast as the plane waving his arms. The pilots and co-pilots saw it.' D'Artega and a pilot went to visit Padre Pio and the pilot recognized in Padre Pio the monk seen through the clouds.

Padre Pio with the American servicemen.

If you won't believe the evidence of the Jumano and other Indian tribes, missionaries and clerics and Sor María herself from the 17th and 18th centuries, perhaps you will believe the evidence of a General in the United States Air Force from the 1940s?

Emilie Sagée (Latvia, 1845) - A photograph of Emilie Sagée bilocating. A fake? Unlikely, over 40 people saw both instances of her at the same time, on several occasions.

Here is a French list of Christian mystics (which I have not researched) who have bilocated:

St. Ambroise (d. 397)
Curma (d. 410)
St. Benoit de Nurcie (d. 547)
St. Boniface (d. 754)
St. Bemard de Tiron (d. 1117)
St. Jean de Matera (d. 1130)
St. Bernard de Clairvaux (d. 1153)
St. GuilIaume de Verceil (d. 1122)
St. Raniero di Ranieri di Pise (d. 1150)
Ste. Hildegarde de Bingen
Ste. AIpaide de Cudot (Sens) (d. 1190)
St. Francois d'Assise (d. 1226)
St. Antoine de Padoue (d. 1231)
St. Louis (vision a distance 30.11.1244) (d. 1270)
Ste. Cunegonde de Pologne (d. 1292)
Bienheureux Jean de Caramola (d. 1339)
Bienheurcux Jean Colombini (d. 1367)
Ste. Catherine de Sienne (d. 1380)
Ste. Lydwine (d. 1433)
Bse Colombe de Rieti (d. 1501)
St. Ignace de Loyola (d. 1556)
Une moniale (d. 1581)
Ste. Therese d'Avila (d. 1582)
St. Philippe de Neri (d. 1595)
St. Joseph de Cupertino (d. 1663)
Ven. Marie d'Agreda (ses 500 voyages) (d. 1665)
St. Martin de Porres (d. 1636)
St. Gerard Majella (d. 1755)
St. Jean Bosco (d. 1888)
Giuseppina Berettoni (d. 17.1.1927)
Padre Pio (now canonized) (1887-1968)

Still not persuaded? Try this.

'Star Trek-style "beaming up" of people through space could become a reality in the far future, the leader of a landmark teleportation experiment has said. Nothing in the laws of physics fundamentally forbids the teleportation of large objects, including humans, Ronald Hanson pointed out. "What we are teleporting is the state of a particle," said Professor Hanson, of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. "If you believe we are nothing more than a collection of atoms strung together in a particular way; then in principle it should be possible to teleport ourselves from one place to another. In practice it's extremely unlikely, but to say it can never work is very dangerous." Professor Hanson's team showed for the first time that it was possible to teleport information encoded into sub-atomic particles between two points three metres apart with 100 per cent reliability. Teleportation exploits the way "entangled" particles acquire a merged identity, with the state of one instantly influencing the other no matter how far apart they are. Albert Einstein dismissed entanglement, calling it "spooky action at a distance", but scientists have repeatedly demonstrated that it is a real phenomenon. The research is published in the latest online edition of the journal Science*. A more ambitious experiment, involving the teleportation of information between buildings on the university campus 1,300 metres apart, is planned in July.' ('Beaming up people could be possible', The Times, 30 May 2014)

*W. Pfaff, B. Hensen, H. Bernien, S. B. van Dam, M. S. Blok, T. H. Taminiau, M. J. Tiggelman, R. N. Schouten, M. Markham, D. J. Twitchen, R. Hanson, 'Unconditional quantum teleportation between distant solid-state quantum bits', Science, 29 May 2014.

'Beam me up, Scotty.'

It is therefore open to the Church to approve (officially confirm) the bilocations of others, including Sor María, in accordance with the relevant standards used to assess apparitions of the Virgin Mary. These criteria are specified in 'Norms Regarding the Manner of Proceeding in the Discernment of Presumed Apparitions or Revelations' as follows:

'A) Positive Criteria:

a) Moral certitude, or at least great probability of the existence of the fact, acquired by means of a serious investigation;

b) Particular circumstances relative to the existence and to the nature of the fact, that is to say:

1. Personal qualities of the subject or of the subjects (in particular, psychological equilibrium, honesty and rectitude of moral life, sincerity and habitual docility towards Ecclesiastical Authority, the capacity to return to a normal regimen of a life of faith, etc.);
2. As regards revelation: true theological and spiritual doctrine and immune from error;
3. Healthy devotion and abundant and constant spiritual fruit (for example, spirit of prayer, conversion, testimonies of charity, etc.).

B) Negative Criteria:

a) Manifest error concerning the fact.

b) Doctrinal errors attributed to God himself, or to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or to some saint in their manifestations, taking into account however the possibility that the subject might have added, even unconsciously, purely human elements or some error of the natural order to an authentic supernatural revelation (cf. Saint Ignatius, Exercises, no. 336).

c) Evidence of a search for profit or gain strictly connected to the fact.

d) Gravely immoral acts committed by the subject or his or her followers when the fact occurred or in connection with it.

e) Psychological disorder or psychopathic tendencies in the subject, that with certainty influenced on the presumed supernatural fact, or psychosis, collective hysteria or other things of this kind.

It is to be noted that these criteria, be they positive or negative, are not peremptory but rather indicative, and they should be applied cumulatively or with some mutual convergence.'

This document also states:

'When Ecclesiastical Authority is informed of a presumed apparition or revelation, it will be its responsibility:

a) first, to judge the fact according to positive and negative criteria (cf. infra, no. I);
b) then, if this examination results in a favorable conclusion, to permit some public manifestation of cult or of devotion, overseeing this with great prudence (equivalent to the formula, “for now, nothing stands in the way”) (pro nunc nihil obstare).
c) finally, in light of time passed and of experience, with special regard to the fecundity of spiritual fruit generated from this new devotion, to
express a judgment regarding the authenticity and supernatural character if the case so merits.'

I would argue that we have now assessed Sor María's bilocations according to the above criteria. I would also argue that we have now had a sufficient period (over 340 years since her death in 1665) during which the strength of popular devotion to Sor María has been amply demonstrated. I would therefore argue that it is open to the ecclesiastical authorities (in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and California) to express a judgment regarding the authenticity of Sor María's bilocations in accordance with the above procedure. As the procedure states; it is their responsibility (duty) to do so ('it will be its responsibility'). Note that the procedure states 'If, on the occasion of a presumed supernatural fact, there arises in a spontaneous way among the faithful a certain cult or some devotion, the competent Ecclesiastical Authority has the serious duty of looking into it without delay and of diligently watching over it.' It is clear that in the case of Sor María's bilocations there is 'some devotion' resulting from them. The competent ecclesiastical authority (i.e. the local bishop) therefore has a clear duty to investigate 'without delay'.

In this context it is worth noting that in relation to the Garabandal apparitions, on 10 March 1996 the Sacred Congregation wrote a letter to the Bishop of Santander: 'However promoters of the Garabandal movement have tried to minimize the decisions and the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Santander. This Sacred Congregation wants it to be clearly understood that the Bishop of Santander has been and continues to be the only one with complete jurisdiction in this matter and the Holy See has no intention of examining this question any further, since it holds that the examinations already carried out are sufficient as well as are the official declarations of the Bishop of Santander. There is no truth to the statement that the Holy See has named an Official Papal Private Investigator of Garabandal and affirmations attributed to the anonymous personage to the extent that the verification of the Garabandal apparitions lies completely in the hands of Pope Paul VI and other such expressions that aim at undermining the authority of the decisions of the Bishop of Santander are completely unfounded.'

Two different methods of colonization (the Roman Catholic/Spanish and the Protestant/Northern European) - education versus extermination - the triumph of the latter and the consequences for the native American peoples

'It has often been said that the first Spanish explorers came to the New World for three things: glory, gold and God. This was true also in New Mexico. But if they came for all three, they only stayed for God and his service since they never found glory and gold. However, the Spanish explorers found a large population of native people, whom they believed deserved to hear the Gospel. New Mexico, then, was established as a colony first and foremost as a mission to the Indians. This missionary effort was begun by the Sons of St. Francis of Assisi, known today simply as Franciscans, whose sandal shod feet carried the Good News to the various tribes. Franciscan spirituality is therefore indelibly imprinted into the soul of New Mexico Catholicism. This is evident in the popular religiosity of the people even today, and in the names given to villages and objects of great natural beauty: the Royal Village of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi (the City of Santa Fe); Holy Cross (the village of Santa Cruz); St. Claire (Santa Clara Pueblo); the Blood of Christ (the Sangre de Cristo Mountains); etc.' (Archbishop Michael J.Sheehan, 'Seeds of Struggle, Harvest of Faith: Four Hundred Years of Catholicism in New Mexico')

The Spanish colonies were initially ruled by the Laws of Burgos of 1512, which were superseded by the Laws of the Indies of 1542. Both sets of laws outlawed the mistreatment of the native Indians. 'The Laws of the Indies' (Felipe II, 1573, para. 136) stated: 'If the natives should resolve to take a defensive position toward the [new] settlement, they should be made aware of how we intend to settle, not to do damage to them nor take away their lands, but instead to gain their friendship and teach them how to live civilly, and also to teach them to know our God so they learn His law through which they will be saved. This will be done by religious, clerics, and other persons designated for this purpose by the governor and through good interpreters, taking care by the best means available that the town settlement is carried out peacefully and with their consent, but if they [the natives] still do not want to concur after having been summoned repeatedly by various means, the settlers should build their own town without taking what belongs to the Indians and without doing them more harm that it were necessary for the protection of the town in order that the settlers are not disturbed.'

John Horace Parry, in 'The Spanish Seaborne Empire' (University of California Press, 1990, p. 175) states: 'In short, the liberty of the Indian, in the sense in which Spanish legislators used the word, meant, mutatis mutandis, the kind of liberty which a legally free peasant enjoyed in Spain; liberty within the context of the whole society to which he belonged, and subject to discharging the appropriate obligations to that society, as laid down by custom.'

In broad terms, the Roman Catholic/Spanish method of colonisation in New Spain involved trying to turn the native Indians into 'good Spanish citizens' by means of education, vocational training (including in the use of European tools and implements and European farming methods) and religious conversion; this was partly because Spain couldn't provide the required numbers of settlers from its own population. This method was centred round presidios (forts), missions, pueblos (native towns) and ranchos (farms or ranches) and the aim was to eventually hand the often substantial land of the missions over to the natives once they were able to manage on their own (a process called 'secularisation') or to settle them on ranches. The Protestant/Northern European (i.e. British) 'method' of colonization, on the other hand, involved importing settlers (their own surplus populations) and driving the native Indians off their lands - and even, in many instances, exterminating them. Following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the Mexican War of Independence of 1810-1821, the annexation of Texas in 1845 and the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, the whole of New Spain (excluding Mexico of course) was either absorbed into or annexed by the United States of America. The consequences for the native Indians were dire and in a relentless and almost continuous series of over 50 American-Indian 'wars' lasting from 1823 to 1918 (and the resulting forced 'treaties' - by which the Indians often lost their lands) the native Indian population was decimated and those that survived were mostly driven off their ancestral tribal lands. A good example of the working of the mission system and of the eventual fate of the native Indian population following annexation by the USA is the history of the Spanish mission system in California.

That is not to say that Spanish expansion into the area did not also have a serious effect on the native Indian population (which was decimated by epidemics introduced unwittingly by the Europeans, for example) or that there was not widespread cruelty and oppression by the Spaniards (forced labour and extortion for example) - but the missionaries were not part of this or responsible for it and they generally tried to protect the native population, though one can point to individual instances of abuse of course.

A victim of the Battle of Little Big Horn (1876) - The all too common result of Indian attempts to protect their lands and way of life.

The role of the Roman Catholic Church in protecting the Pueblos (native Indian towns) of the American South-West down to the present day

It is necessary to understand something of the Pueblos (native Indian towns) of Arizona/New Mexico/Texas and the role played by the Roman Catholic Church (mainly the Franciscans) in protecting the native Indian peoples in their Pueblos and helping them to survive as semi-autonomous communities down to the present day. Although there were many instances of individual (as opposed to systematic) abuse of the rights of the native people by missionaries, in general the missionaries did their best to protect the natives from exploitation by settlers and the civil authorities, such as governors, by opposing land seizures and the imposition of forced labour for instance. This was based on their belief that all men are equal before God. As stated by Archbishop Michael Sheehan in his "Seeds of Struggle: Harvest of Hope" (1998): "The eminent Pueblo scholar and historian Professor Joe Sando... notes that the Pueblo Indians have fared much better under the Spanish than the Indians on the east coast of the United States. There are no Indian markets in Boston or New York! There Indian culture was pretty well destroyed. Here in New Mexico, Indian culture still flourishes." The main work of conversion of the Pueblo Indians was carried out by Father Alonso Benevides, Head (Custos) of the Missions in New Mexico, and his fellow Franciscans, who were inspired by the miraculous work carried out by María de Jesús de Ágreda and by her letter of 1631 to the missionaries in America (see above), although there was, of course, resistance in some communities, including periodic violent backlashes (such as the Pueblo Revolt of 1680). However, in so far as the conversion of the native Indian peoples can be attributed to María de Jesús de Ágreda's direct involvement and her inspiration of the Franciscan missionaries and in so far as the Franciscans in particular and the Roman Catholic Church in general subsequently managed to protect the native Indian peoples in the Pueblos in Arizona/New Mexico/Texas, the survival of those peoples in their ancestral communities in that area down to the present day (as compared to the fate of the Indians in the rest of the United States) must be laid at her feet.

The struggle of the Franciscan missionaries to protect the Indians from the settlers was often heroic. L. Bradford Prince, in his 'Spanish Mission Churches of New Mexico' (The Torch Press, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1915, p. 43) writes: 'Besides the inevitable difficulties of their work, the Franciscan missionaries, from the very first, found themselves antagonized, and many of their efforts rendered futile, by the action of Oñate and succeeding governors, and their opposition to the methods of the Franciscans. Their points of view were essentially different. The governors generally had no thought but of holding the Indians in subjection, of making further explorations and conquests and of securing any personal gain possible from their official position. The other officials and the little army of soldiers naturally agreed with the governor and his wishes. The friars, on the other hand, thought only of the salvation of souls, of the baptism of the natives of all ages, and the stamping out of heathen ceremonials. These essential differences created much friction and finally open antagonism.'

The Indians were 'protected by special laws and ensured possession of their lands. Spanish legislation was the broadest, most comprehensive, systematic and humanitarian of its day... From a cultural standpoint, there were schools for Indians in America from 1524 onwards... [Hence] it is curious how often Spanish policy with respect to the Indians comes under attack, while excesses committed by Anglo-Saxon frontiersmen against Indians in those regions are ignored. In fact, the Indians of New Mexico and Arizona are the only Indians in the United States who inhabit the same lands as their forefathers. They live in towns established by the Spaniards...' (Fernandez-Shaw, Carlos M., 'The Hispanic Presence in North America from 1492 to today', Facts on File, New York, 1991).

In 1782 the Franciscan fathers of San Jose, California, in a petition to the Governor, claimed that the Mission Indians owned both the mission land and the cattle. They argued that 'by law' the mission property was to pass to the Mission Indians after a period of about ten years, when they would become Spanish citizens and that, in the interim period, the Franciscans were mission administrators who held the land in trust for the Natives (Milliken, Randall, 'A Time of Little Choice: The Disintegration of Tribal Culture in the San Francisco Bay Area 1769–1910', Menlo Park, California, Ballena Press Publication, 1995, p. 72-3).

Taos Pueblo, the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States. 90% of the inhabitants are Roman Catholic.

Francisca Chiwiwi (presumably named after St. Francis of Assisi - which shows that the Franciscan influence in the pueblo was still strong after 300 years) at Isleta Pueblo, circa 1925. It was at Isleta (south of Albuquergue, New Mexico) that Father Alonso Benevides was told by the Jumanos of the visits of the 'Lady in Blue' in 1629.

Sor (Sister) María's role in the history of 'New Spain' - her inspiration of the Franciscan missionaries, her role as the 'arch colonizer' and the expansion of 'New Spain' across the USA via the mission system.

It was clear from an early date (before 1600) that there were no great civilizations or 'cities of gold' waiting to be conquered in that part of the world, so the primary motive behind territorial expansion in the area was religious zeal (a desire to harvest souls for God), not greed. By 1800 the territories of 'New Spain' had grown to include the almost the whole of the modern United States of America west of the Mississippi River, excluding only a disputed area in the north-west (parts of modern Washington state, Oregon and Idaho). Thus, in 1800 Spain held something like two-thirds of the total land area of the modern mainland United States, compared to something like one-third held by Britain and France east of the Mississippi River.

The Vice-Royalty of New Spain in 1789, with its eastern boundary at the Mississippi river.

In the context of the history of the United States more generally, María de Jesús de Ágreda's influence extended far beyond the naming of the state of Texas, the selection of its state flower and motto, the setting up of the Roman Catholic missions in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona, the religious conversion of the native Indians and their survival in those states - significant though such things are. Essentially, she was the single most important inspiration (other than the Bible of course) behind the missionary work of the Franciscans in the American South-West (many of whom carried her 'The Mystical City of God' with them on their travels) and that missionary work was what largely drove the expansion of 'New Spain' in that part of the world.

'Other Californian friars from the later 17th and early 18th centuries continued to reference Sor María, and many cited tribal histories that recalled a Catholic evangelization predating Serra and Palóu (Geiger, vol. 1 295-7). These accounts extend the Lady in Blue’s narrative even further in the history of Spain’s last northern missionary frontier. With dates as late as 1856, the view of Sor María as a missionary that began with Serra, Palóu and the missionaries of Propaganda Fide continued in the region well into the mid-19th century.' (Nogar, Anna Maria, 'La Monja Azul: The Political and Cultural Ramifications of a 17th-century Mystical Transatlantic Journey', University of Texas Dissertation, 2008, p. 191).

'In the words of my dissertation advisor, Sor Maria (at least in the 17th and 18th centuries) is the arch-colonizer.' (Nogar, Anna Maria, 'La Monja Azul: The Political and Cultural Ramifications of a 17th-century Mystical Transatlantic Journey', University of Texas Dissertation, 2008, p. 157). In other words, Sor María was the 'arch-colonizer' even long after her death.

Because she directly inspired the missionaries of New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and California, whose efforts resulted in the territory of 'New Spain' expanding to include some two-thirds of the mainland of the USA, it is fair to say that Sor María, in effect, conquered an empire without ever leaving her convent in Spain. We say that Alexander the Great conquered a great empire even though it was his armies that actually did the fighting, not Alexander himself. We say this, rightly, because Alexander the Great inspired his soldiers and guided their actions. In a similar way, Sor María inspired and guided the actions of the missionaries, although only as a Servant of God of course. Alexander the Great conquered his empire by force and his army would have disintegrated in his absence (as happened after his death); Sor María conquered an empire with love from her cell in a convent in Spain because she inspired the minds of men; men as determined and as brave as the bravest soldiers of Alexander the Great, but with a more powerful weapon - the Word of God. Alexander the Great's empire vanished into dust; Sor María's 'empire' lives on in the form of the Roman Catholic Church in the USA (though she would never have accepted that she was anything other than the most humble and least-deserving of God's servants).

How the USA became 'The Land of Mary Immaculate' in 1846 and the connection to Sor (Sister) María

The oldest church of the Immaculate Conception in the United States, and (according to some) the oldest unrestored church in the United States, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception de Acuña at San Antonio, Texas (from 1731), had previously been called 'Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception de Ágreda' in honour of María de Jesús de Ágreda (from 1718 to 1731*), who was a nun of the Order of the Immaculate Conception. In 1760 the 'Spanish Borderlands' (Florida, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California) were placed under the patronage of 'Mary Immaculate' (the Virgin Mary) by Pope Clement XIII and later, in 1846, the Virgin Mary was made Patroness (Patron Saint) of the United States with Papal approval, eight years before the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception became official church dogma in 1854. Thus the United States of America became 'The Land of Mary Immaculate'. The national shrine is at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, which was completed in 1961. 'Our Lady of Guadalupe' (that is, the Virgin Mary) was made 'Patroness of the Americas', 'Empress of Latin America' and 'Protectress of Unborn Children' by Pope John Paul II in 1999. 'The Land of Mary Immaculate' therefore traces its origins to a church named after María de Jesús de Ágreda.

*The church was established in 1716 near Douglass, Texas, about 'half a league' east of the Angelina River 'near springs flowing to a small marsh' along El Camino Real (Royal Road) de los Tejas. The actual site was discovered in 2010 by the Texas Archaeological Stewardship Network (TASN) (at Ben Gallant Farm at Google co-ordinates 31.622539,-94.913537, map here), though there is state historical marker (no. 9287 at co-ordinates 31.57745976,-94.87641615) dating from 1936 'about 7 mi. S of Douglass via FM 225, then S on CR 798 [correctly 789], take left before Goodman Bridge and continue for one mile'. From 1716 to 1718 the church was called 'Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception de los Hainais' (sometimes 'de los Hasinai' - the Hainai were the lead tribe of the Hasinai Caddo). In 1718 the church was renamed 'Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception de Ágreda'. It was abandoned in 1719 due to fear of French incursions from Louisiana and then re-occupied in 1721 by the Aguayo Expedition. In 1730 the mission was moved to the Colorado River, near Austin, but the location was found to be unsuitable and the mission was moved to San Antonio in 1731, where the present-day church was built and renamed to 'Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception de Acuña', after the then Viceroy of Mexico. See here for more on the Spanish missions in Texas.

Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña (also Mission Concepcion), San Antonio, Texas (the earlier church at the previous location south of Douglass, Texas, was called Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Ágreda).

Map of part of El Camino Real de los Tejas south of Douglass, Texas, from the National Park Service. The location of the historical marker for 'Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception de Ágreda' is indicated by the yellow arrow at co-ordinates 31.57745976,-94.87641615. The red arrow indicates the correct location discovered by TASN in 2010. The dotted line is the Angelina River, the county boundary.

State historical marker no. 9287 State historical marker no. 9287

'La Conquistadora', the oldest Madonna in the USA and her connection to Sor (Sister) María

The oldest Madonna in the United States (older than the United States itself of course) was brought to Santa Fe in 1625/6 by Father Alonso de Benavides, the priest who identified María de Jesús de Ágreda as the 'Lady in Blue'. This Madonna was originally known as 'Our Lady of the Rosary' but was renamed 'Our Lady of the Rosary: La Conquistadora' (that is, 'Our Lady of Conquest' or 'Our Lady of Conquering Love' - hence 'Our Lady of Peace') in honour of the peaceful reconquest of New Mexico following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which is credited to her intervention. 'La Conquistadora' was rescued from a burning church during the Pueblo Revolt and was kidnapped and held for ransom (but later recovered from a mine) in 1973; she has survived wars, revolutions, fire and kidnap. She was crowned by Cardinal Spellman in 1954 and was granted a Papal Crown in 1960. An annual procession is held in her honour in Santa Fe and is the oldest religious procession in the United States. See Fray Angelico Chavez, 'La Conquistadora, The Autobiography of an Ancient Statue' (Sunstone Press, 2012), Jaima Chevalier, 'La Conquistadora' (Sunstone Press, 2010) and Sue Houser, 'La Conquistadora' (Sunstone Press, 2011).

'Enter, La Conquistadora. Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas, is the true founder of American culture. The process of inculturation began with her, as she united Europeans and natives in a common faith. Yet, after five hundred years, the conquest of America is still just beginning. The blueprint is there, responding to each of the three problems – a renewal of our culture that affirms the dignity of life, unites people together in charity, and orders our lives toward true happiness. Our Lady has shown us the way in that the building of true culture comes from within, from a conversion of heart, which opens us up to the power of God, who can overcome our sin and the wounds we inflict on one another. Winning the spiritual war, which is completely intertwined with the decline of our culture, is not something we can do on our own. It is only through the intercession and aid of Our Lady, our true conqueror, that we will make progress. I urge us to take the title of La Conquistadora seriously. It is the oldest shrine in the United States for a reason and we need to invoke Our Lady not only to conquer the dark forces at work in our country, but also to build up a new culture, focused on life, unity, and faith. Let us avoid the division and violence that we have seen in the history of the Americas and embrace the heritage given to us by Our Lady, when she laid the true foundations for a new civilization in this hemisphere.' - 'La Conquistadora and the Unfinished Conquest of the Americas', R. Jared Staudt, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Theology and Catechesis at the Augustine Institute, Denver, Colorado.

'La Conquistadora', Queen of New Mexico, the most important religious symbol in the United States, in procession in Santa Fe in 2012. The annual procession is the oldest religious procession in the United States.

Album cover for 'La Conquistadora' (2008) by The Krayolas, 'San Antonio’s legendary Tex-Mex powerpop and garage rock band'. Painting by David Zamora Casas of San Antonio. This painting actually seems to be based on the image of 'Our Lady of Guadelupe'.

Sor (Sister) María as religious and political advisor to King Philip IV of Spain (1605-1665) - the most powerful woman in Europe?

María de Jesús de Ágreda became the spiritual and political advisor to King Philip IV of Spain and exchanged over 600 letters with him over a period of more than 22 years. He said of her 'Except for Sor [Sister] Maria's counsel, the unity of Spain would never have been preserved.' Her letters to him were sometimes quite blunt; telling him, amongst other things, to improve his morals, not to trust his advisors, not to crush the peasants with taxation and not to debase the currency. She also advised him on the conduct of the war with France. She was involved in the negotiations preceding the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659, which led to the marriage of Louis XIV to Maria Theresa and eventually to the Bourbon succession to the throne of Spain and the War of Spanish Succession of 1701-14. When France wanted to make peace overtures in 1657 the Duc de Gramont approached Sor María. She was arguably the most influential woman in Europe at that time, which is quite remarkable when you consider the fact that she was a cloistered nun. Henry Charles Lea, in his 'A History of the Inquisition of Spain' (Vol. 4, Book 8, Chapter 5) states: 'She so captured the confidence of Philip that he made her his chief adivser; for twenty-two years, until her death in 1665, four months before his own, he maintained constant correspondence with her by every post [an exaggeration - they exchanged about 40 letters per year]. Her influence was thus almost unbounded, but she seems never to have abused it; her advice was usually sound, and she never sought enrichment of the impoverished convent of Agreda, of which she was the superior.' Philip IV was ruler of the greatest empire in the world at the time and Spain was the leading power in Europe. He believed that Sor María could personally intervene with God on his behalf to save him and protect his territories. This gave Sor María enormous influence.

By way of example, on 25 November 1661 she wrote to the King: 'Let Your Majesty expressly order your ministers to punish the offences of the rich and powerful people who trample down the poor, taking their property from them and seizing it unlawfully; let junior officials be told that they must administer justice fairly... let members of the government be told to set their house in order and, for the love of God, to lighten the taxation that falls on the poor. I know for certain that some villages have had to be abandoned, and that people are living on barley-bread and wild herbs. They are losing all hope.' In the same letter she wrote: 'Would Your Majesty please order that the income of the Church be not confiscated and devoted to secular needs. It comes near to being sacrilege. Order, too, that the chaplaincies be exempted, because masses are not being said any more and the holy souls in Purgatory are lamenting and imploring help. It would be a very charitable act to give relief.' And later: 'Another thing, so many changes in the coinage are extremely harmful. A man's savings are the reward of his toil and he preserves them jealously; if the value of them is depreciated or runs alarming risk of being depreciated he becomes angry. Your Majesty has many wise and disinterested people who will give you information about this and tell you that what I am saying is true. I am not informed by anyone, but my inner conviction and my great love for Your Majesty have compelled me to say this to you.'

Philip IV (1605-1665) of Spain.

Sor (Sister) María's miracles

Sor María performed many well-documented miracles, both during her lifetime and after her death. The most dramatic (and shocking) was the occasion when she raised a man from the dead in front of terrified witnesses, including the local priest of Ágreda (Marilyn Fedewa, 'María of Ágreda - Mystical Lady in Blue', p. 229). She swore these witnesses to secrecy and the written testimony of the priest only came to light many years after her death.

The most extraordinary thing about her miracles is that they actually seem almost routine in the context of the other astonishing aspects of her life; her authorship of 'The Mystical City of God' and her bilocation visits to the American South-West.

The latest miracle ascribed to her is described by Marilyn Fedewa ('María of Ágreda - Mystical Lady in Blue') as follows: 'On February 20, 1867, Dr. E. Hanon, M.D., of Nivelles, Belgium, wrote the following: "Mary Catherine Plas of Strombeck, [known] in religion [as] Sor M. Colette of the monastery of Conceptionists in this city, aged thirty-two years, has been under my treatment since March 1863." Dr. Hamon described the progressive inflammation and deterioration of Sor Colette's dorsal vertebrae, resulting in muscle deterioration, grave pain and palpitations, and ultimately complete paralysis. Additionally, the patient vomited blood and could retain no food. By the end of 1866, further treatment was deemed futile, and Sor Colette prayed unsuccessfully for an end to her suffering through death. Then on January 27, 1867, the abbess and all the nuns, including Sor Colette, began a novena [nine days of prayer] in honour of Sor María of Ágreda and her inspiring work in Mystical City of God. Each day, for nine consecutive days, they prayed fervently that if it was God's will, Sor Colette would be cured through the merits of Sor María. Throughout the nine days, Sor Colette held in her hands a small image of Sor María. On Wednesday, February 6, 1867, the convent's spiritual director noted Sor Colette's grievous condition. He heard her confession, believing it to be her last. The abbess, firm in her faith for a cure, nevertheless instructed two nuns on the following day to bring Sor Colette to the choir to give thanks. On February 7, the two nuns arrived at Sor Colette's room to find her up and fully dressed. Understandably thinking that she would still be weak, the nuns convinced her to sit on a chair, on which they would carry her downstairs to the choir. Soon, however, Sor Colette realized the full extent of her cure. She descended the stairs on her own, walked into the choir, and knelt before the altar fully recovered." The Rev. Mother Abbess assured me", wrote Dr. Hanon, "that no remedy had been applied since my treatment had ceased... Sor M. Colette's health was so perfect that on the following day she was able to resume her usual occupations, and to recite the office with her sisters both by day and by night. . . . I am willing to affirm this declaration by a solemn oath."'

Sor María with her guardian angel.

Sor María performing a miracle (from a painting in the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, Ágreda, Soria, Spain).

Sor (Sister) María - First accurate description of the appearance of the Earth from space

Sor María wrote 'Face of the Earth and Map of the Spheres' in about 1616, when she was 14 years old. It includes what has been described as the first accurate description of the appearance of the curvature of the earth from space ('these included the way the earth looks from the space'). The relevant part seems to be:

'As soon as I said, "The will of His Highness be done," He said to me, "My wife and turtledove, I created the heavens and the earth and the elements and the sea. I want you to know the purpose for which all that has being was created and of my watchful providence that protects mankind, and that I have provided for it many kindnesses and a diversity of created things. Pay attention and look." I looked carefully. I did as the Most High commanded, and I saw what is impossible for me to explain, something of which my mind had known nothing. My understanding was through the illumination of revelation, without which, by natural means, it could not have come about. So that I might see and know and understand, the Lord endowed me with a special ability (and that in itself was another of his great marvels), in order that I might know all the face of the earth, the sea, some of the big rivers, the animals, the inhabitants, the cities and kingdoms, and the diversity of creatures - all these things - and still its being so big was not an obstacle. And while there is no denying its size - even though by natural means one cannot see a quarter of a league ahead - still I was able to know and form an opinion of the smallest things, for my sight extended many, many leagues distant, as far away as the earth stretches. I saw the diverse creatures there are within it, along with other aspects of it, as though all these things were no farther from me than a crossbow shot; and I will tell now just how distinctly I perceived it all.
I saw the earth and its immensity, which I found truly astonishing, though no more than all I perceived within it. I could see, then, that the earth is divided into four parts, and beneath each of the meridians that separate it in this way there is a dwelling, the relationship among the four of them being somewhat symmetrical.
The first of these four parts is the one in which we live, though any one may be considered the first of the four dwellings I am now describing. It does not matter which one you start counting with; it comes out the same. The second dwelling is of the people called or known as the Perioecians, which means they live in that other section or region of the earth. The third dwelling is of the people known as the Antoecians, which are, and whose name means, those who live opposite us. The fourth dwelling is of the people who are known and called the Antipodes. Their dwelling is contrary to where we are, so situated that their feet are directly opposite to ours; our nadir is their zenith, and our zenith is their nadir. And if we think and say that they are upside down, they can say the same about us.
But the truth of the matter is, and this I have seen and recognized, is that we are all right side up; we should not judge on the basis of our own situation who is right side up, but in relation to the center of the earth and the world. Everyone's feet point down toward the center, which is their foundation, while their heads go up toward the sky, and so both they and we are straight up, just the way God wants and commands it to be, each group living where its lot fell to it. Divine providence arranged for mankind to have our heads up to the sky and our feet on the earth so that we should know and be aware that we were born from the earth and formed from it, though our final home will not be on the earth. On pleasures and vanities we must step, denying them all and not giving ourselves over to them for our delight; that is why our feet were placed on it. Instead we should long for our country, which is Heaven, and meditate on it day and night and look toward it; that is the reason they put our heads toward that heavenly Jerusalem for which we were created. That is why our feet go down to the earth and our heads up to the sky.
The Antipodes and we do not share the same seasons, for when they have summer, we have winter, and when we have day, they night; and when we have the longest day of the year, they have the longest night and the shortest day. And this is true, for I saw it was so.
And it is a great wonder of the Most High to see the night in one part of the world and the day in another, in some parts the sun and in others the moon, the moon and the shadow caused by the absence of the sun, for the world is like a ball. Seen all together, it offered a beautiful diversity and revealed its Author to be a great and magnificent King.
To give a clearer idea of how the world was shown to me, let me say it was by reproducing images of it for me, so that I might see it in God. I saw it so clearly that it all seemed to spring from God. In His Highness I perceived all the images. I cannot be sure of the exact way in which I saw them. But the world is divided into four parts; to make myself clear I will describe them in order, and they are Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.'

There are aspects of this work that are difficult to understand, to reconcile to other parts of the work or to reconcile with what we now know to be fact:

  • Sor María stated that she saw what she saw through 'the illumination of revelation' and that the world was shown to her by 'reproducing images of it for me' but she 'cannot be sure of the exact way in which [she] saw them'. This seems to be describing something akin to a vision, as opposed to physically seeing things as we do in daily life. Her sight extended 'as far as the Earth stretches', which implies that she did not think that she actually went to the places she describes but saw them from afar (even though she saw them in great detail). She says that she 'saw it so clearly that it all seemed to spring from God'.
  • Clark A. Colahan, in his 'The Visions of Sor Maria de Agreda: Writing Knowledge and Power' (University of Arizona Press, 1994, p. 21) claims that Sor María took descriptions of places, people and animals (some of a fantastical nature) 'word for word' from a Castilian translation of 'Cosmographicus Liber' (1524) by Apianus and he references many examples. It would seem therefore that 'Face of the Earth and Map of the Spheres' is, to all intents and purposes, simply a copy of 'Cosmographicus Liber' with added details, which Sor María claimed she saw in a vision or visions which (she says) seemed to have been sent by God. This is difficult to understand. Why would someone reproduce information from a well-known source and claim that the information seemed to come to her in a vision from God when it was clearly a trivial matter to prove that it did not? Why would she specifically state 'I saw what is impossible for me to explain, something of which my mind had known nothing' if it was obvious that she must have based her treatise on Apianus' work? Why would she claim that she was astonished at what she saw if she was in fact already aware of it? Perhaps what she meant was that it is one thing to be told (or to read) that the Earth is a ball floating in space but it is quite another to actually see the Earth from space. One is simply a stated fact (to which the response might be 'OK, the Earth is like a ball floating in space.'), the other is a truly astonishing sight ('Incredible! The Earth is like a ball floating in space!'). Colahan explains that she added many details to those described by Apianus and refers to her 'visual imagination and storytelling ability' (p. 23); he says that she 'clearly enjoyed these imagined races with astonishment and delicious horror'. Was the whole thing therefore just a literary conceit written by a 14 year-old girl for her younger brothers? This is the view taken by T. D. Kendrick in his 'Mary of Agreda: The life and legend of a Spanish nun'.
  • Detractors will inevitably argue that if Sor María could extract information from a well-known source, add imaginary details and then claim that her 'knowledge' of these matters seemed to have been revealed to her by God, what does that say about the authenticity of her accounts of bilocation to the American South-West and the authenticity of her major work, 'The Mystical City of God'? Were all three just the imaginings of an over-active (or over-heated) mind? Casanova, who was forced to read 'The Mystical City of God' in prison, thought so (though perhaps we should not pay too much attention to the opinions of a scandalous libertine with the morals of a dog on such a matter). It would be tempting to answer 'Yes' to this question but, in the first place, there is inevitably a huge difference between the writings of a 14 year-old girl and those of a mature nun (Who wants to be judged by their adolescent writings?) and, in the second place, even if the 'Face of the Earth and Map of the Spheres' is a literary conceit, if does not necessarily follow that all her other writings were as well. The authenticity of those other writings must be assessed without reference to her juvenile treatise, which, in my view, must be treated as exactly that.
  • Perhaps her underlying logic was, in effect, that she certainly saw or perceived astonishing images of the earth in some inexplicable way and that, since God is omnipotent and all-powerful, the source of what she saw can only have been God (the Devil having been excluded as a possible source of course), regardless of whether or not she had previously read about what she was shown. Thus she could have both read about the geography of the Earth and then been shown what she had read about, and more, by God. The former does not necessarily exclude the latter - and she never says that she had not previously read anything about the geography of the Earth. Her reference to things 'of which my mind had known nothing' might simply mean that she had no prior knowledge from her reading of some of the things she saw, not all of them.
  • But that still leaves something that seems to be completely inexplicable. In 'Face of the Earth and Map of the Spheres' Sor María describes 'an island near the two poles called Arctic and Antarctic', which is 800 leagues (2400 miles or 3900 kilometres) wide. I think this must mean that there is an island near each pole (i.e. the Arctic and the Antarctic), covering in total the 800 leagues of the Earth's circumference not yet accounted for (according to Sor María), since one cannot have one island that is near both poles. But the 'Antarctic' as we know it today was completely unknown at that time; it was simply a location on the surface of the Earth opposite the Arctic (the word means 'opposite to the Arctic'), not a continent. Cartographers imagined a continent called 'Terra Australis Incognita' or 'Unknown Southern Land' (not to be confused with Australia or 'New Holland') which they supposed must exist to 'balance' the lands in the northern hemisphere. Sometimes cartographers showed a coastline or partial coastline for this land, but it was an entirely imaginary coastline. A 1771 map in Encyclopedia Britannica (see below) shows no land in that part of the world, simply a name, 'Terres Australes', in the middle of empty ocean. In 1814 the British explorer, Matthew Flinders, said, in his 'A Voyage to Terra Australis', by which he meant Australia, that there was 'no probability' of discovering land south of Australia and it was not until 1820 that the land mass of Antarctica was first sighted - and yet Sor María described a large land mass called 'Antarctic' some 200 years before. She certainly didn't take this from Apianus. Kendrick ('Mary of Agreda: The life and legend of a Spanish nun') asserts that Sor María confused Antarctica with the medieval idea of Iceland but this strikes me as very unlikely; Iceland was known at that time to be a small island in the northern hemisphere ('Ultima Thule') whereas the Antarctic she described was a very large island (a continent in fact) in the southern hemisphere. It is mystifying that a 14 year-old girl should describe a continent 200 years before it was discovered.
  • Many sources or authorities, including the Inquisition in 1650, say that, in their view, Sor María obtained 'infused knowledge' via prayer and contemplation rather than by reading or verbal communication. We cannot possibly know how such a 'process' might have worked but there is no doubt that her writings include many facts (such as details of the life of the Virgin Mary and the early life of Jesus) which have no known source. Many of these facts, such as those about the peoples and geography of the American South-West, were independently confirmed, as discussed elsewhere in this paper. In the absence of an explanation we can speculate that her treatise on the geography of the Earth was an early 'essay in the craft' of obtaining infused knowledge via prayer or contemplation at a time when she had not fully learned how to use and control the extraordinary gift she had been given - rather like a teenager's first attempt to drive a car; a power to get from A to B is put into their hands but they have to learn how to use it, and if not used properly it can lead down the wrong road. Perhaps we can think of 'Face of the Earth and Map of the Spheres' as, in effect, a spiritual driving lesson.* Perhaps we all have the power, if only we could learn how to use it. Perhaps it is a gift given only to some; 'Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God' would seem to cover it. Perhaps, after all, we are talking about nothing more than the power of love; the absolute necessity of a love that can move mountains. Perhaps the answer is staring us in the face; 'Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.' Perhaps all that Sor María did was to ask with a pure heart. Who can doubt that she was pure in heart? Who can doubt that she asked? Who can doubt that she received? We know that she received; there is no dispute about that because she wrote it down - it is merely that some of us doubt what she received. But whose fault is that?

*'Illusions connected with private revelations have been explained in the article CONTEMPLATION. Some of them are at first thought surprising. Thus a vision of an historical scene (e.g., of the life or death of Christ) is often only approximately accurate, although the visionary may be unaware of this fact, and he may be misled, if he believes in its absolute historical fidelity. This error is quite natural, being based on the assumption that, if the vision comes from God, all its details (the landscape, dress, words, actions, etc.) should be a faithful reproduction of the historical past. This assumption is not justified, for accuracy in secondary details is not necessary; the main point is that the fact, event, or communication revealed be strictly true. It may be objected that the Bible contains historical books, and that thus God may sometimes wish to reveal certain facts in religious history to us exactly. That doubtless is true, when there is question of facts which are necessary or useful as a basis for religion, in which case the revelation is accompanied by proofs that guarantee its accuracy. A vision need not guarantee its accuracy in every detail. One should thus beware of concluding without examination that revelations are to be rejected; the prudent course is neither to believe nor to deny them unless there is sufficient reason for so doing. Much less should one suspect that the saints have been always, or very often deceived in their vision. On the contrary, such deception is rare, and as a rule in unimportant matters only.' ('Private Revelations', The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia).

A world map of 1771 from the Encyclopedia Britannica showing Terres Australes but no Antarctica. 'New Holland' which was subsequently renamed 'Australia' is shown.

I show the following pictures for your consideration. According to the website linked here the casulla shown below was made by María de Jesús de Ágreda and is in the museum of the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, Ágreda. According to another website the casulla was 'painted' by a Mariano Felez. I do not know what to make of it; it looks to me to be a modern style of illustration rather than 17th century. What is clear is that the casulla shows an accurate representation of the earth, including Australia, which was unknown when she wrote her treatise.

A casulla apparently made by María de Jesús de Ágreda in the museum of the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, Ágreda.

"Nova Totius Terrarum Orbis Tabula" by Hendrik Hondius (1630) - the first atlas to show any part of Australia. The only previous map to do so being Hessel Gerritsz' 1627 Caert van't Landt van d'Eendracht ("Chart of the Land of Eendracht"), which was not widely distributed or recognised. The Australian coastline shown is part of the west coast of Cape York Peninsula, discovered by Jan Carstensz in 1623.

Hessel Gerritsz's 1627 Caert van't Landt van d'Eendracht ("Chart of the Land of Eendracht"), which shows 'Terre Australis Incognitae', which is an imagined Antarctic continent, but not Australia.

Sor (Sister) María's death

The death of María de Jesús de Ágreda has been described as follows:

'When she was given Extreme Unction, the serenity of her spirit shone on her countenance, which became beautiful and smiling. She gave her last advice and blessing to each sister saying: "I recommend to you, virtue, virtue, virtue." On the Feast of Pentecost at the very moment of the day (nine o'clock) when, according to tradition, the Holy Ghost descended upon the Virgin Mary and the Apostles, she, who had enjoyed so many visions, was called to the eternal Beatific Vision. At the moment she died, she was seen radiant with heavenly light in a church in Agreda by John Carrillo, a teacher who frequently communicated with the Venerable María and to whom she had foretold her death. He had just received Communion in the Church of St. Julian of the Franciscan Fathers, when he saw the servant of God surrounded by a globe of light ascending toward heaven. María died at the age of 63 years on the 24th of May, 1665, having been a nun 46 years, 35 of which she was Abbess. Her sisters testify that in her last moments they heard a most sweet voice repeat: "Come, come, come." At the last call, Sor María de Jesus de Agreda breathed forth her soul. Most Rev. Joseph Zimenez Samaniego relates that at the precise hour of her death, Sor María was seen ascending into heaven by persons of eminent perfection in several places far distant from Agreda - thus fulfilling in a pre-eminent degree the promise of the Holy Spirit regarding His Spouse, the Virgin Mary: "Qui elucidant me, vitam aeternam habebunt." ["Who elucidates me shall have eternal life"] - Ecclus. 24:31' - Doctor Carlos E. Castañeda, Catholic historian.

María de Jesús de Ágreda (María Coronel y Arana) with the Holy Mother and Child - "Qui elucidant me, vitam aeternam habebunt."

Sor (Sister) María - The incorruptibility of her body

Two years after her death in 1665 severe damp was discovered in the crypt of the convent in which she was buried. When her coffin was opened her body was found to be completely incorrupt. In the 322 years to 1989 her body was examined 14 times and reported to be intact on each occasion. In 1989 her body was reported to have remained completely unchanged since 1909. Many people have visited her including kings, queens, cardinals, bishops, princes, dukes and ambassadors and many of the faithful. She sleeps in the church of the convent to the right of the altar. Her face is now covered by a thin wax mask but her hands are not and are reported to look quite normal.

Sarcophagus containing the uncorrupted body of María de Jesús de Ágreda.

King Charles II of Spain and Don Juan José of Austria praying to María de Jesús de Ágreda in 1677.

Sor (Sister) María - The beatification process (341 years and counting)

In this section I say some pretty devastating things but, in doing so, I rely on the words of Cardinal Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in his keynote address on 13 January 2013 'The Saints are changing the world and glorify the Church'.

'As you can see, the beneficial effects of the causes of beatification and canonization are far-reaching spiritual and pastoral. The saints are the true treasures of the Church. And all those who contribute to the causes of saints are like the goldsmiths, dealing with precious materials such as gold, platinum, diamonds, pearls. With patience and great skill of these artists, often sconosciuiti, work them with extreme delicacy, they clear them of impurities and return them to their true glory. Dear students of the Studium , be aware that you are holding a spiritual capital of inestimable value to the world and for the Church. Your professional expertise combined with the wisdom evaluation aims to deliver to the dioceses, religious congregations and, ultimately, to the whole Church the gift of precious lives of the Gospel, which are authentic human and spiritual jewelry, worthy of adorning the crown of glory of Christ and the precious garment of the Church his bride. You treat not of holy things, but holy lives, to study, analyze and evaluate them with respect to the light of truth and accuracy, and also the grace of the Holy Spirit, the divine love of the Trinity, true architect of holiness in the Church.'

In the interests of truth and accuracy I will proceed.

The beatification process* (the process by which a person is declared 'Blessed' - the step between being declared 'Venerable' and being canonized as a saint) began in 1673 and is not yet complete; indeed, it has effectively stalled. The main reason for the reluctance of the Church to complete the process seems to be a concern, expressed by Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758), that it would result in ‘The Mystical City of God’ being considered to be the '5th Gospel' of the New Testament and place an undue and inappropriate emphasis on the Virgin Mary at the expense of Jesus as sole Redeemer. According to Marilyn H. Fedewa, in her 'Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue' (p. 257), every Pope, on his accession to the Throne of St. Peter, reads a 'Judicium' (note) written by Pope Benedict XIV in 1758 to the effect that the Church should not take sides in the matter; that is, the Church should neither approve of nor condemn 'The Mystical City of God'.

*The three key documents are 'Sanctorum Mater' (17 May 2007), 'Divinus Perfectionis Magister' (15 January 1983) and 'Normae Servandae' (7 February 1983).

The above diagram shows that a candidate's writings are assessed prior to them being declared 'Venerable' and that once a person has been declared 'Venerable' all that is required for beatification is one miracle in the case of a confessor (person not martyred) and none in the case of a martyr. Once a 'Venerable' has been beatified (declared 'Blessed') one further miracle is required for canonization.

It is clear that Sor María would have been canonized were it not for the reservations within the Church concerning 'The Mystical City of God', since she qualifies for sainthood on the grounds of the number of well-attested miracles attributed to her (even ignoring her bilocations), as well as the incorruptibility of her body, which is also treated as a miracle and taken as a sign of sainthood (though not a necessary one). These reservations are all the more perplexing given that two of the three messages that she proclaimed to the world (although she did not originate them), the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility, have both subsequently become official dogma of the Church (in 1854 and 1870 respectively). The third message she proclaimed, that of the Virgin Mary as Co-Redemptrix and Mediatrix of All Graces, has been described as 'The Church's Unused Weapon' and is supported by over 500 cardinals and bishops from all over the world and a petition signed by six million Roman Catholics.

The timeline of the beatification process is as follows:

1665 - Death of Sor María.
1671 - Petition to start beatification process.
1672 - Pope Clement X initiates beatification process.
1673 - Pope Clement X declares Sor María a Venerable of the Church, which means that she is deemed to have lived a life of heroic virtue. This is the first step in the beatification process.
1681 (June) - Pope Innocent XI places 'The Mystical City of God' on the Church's Index of Forbidden Books. Cardinal Aquaviva said of this: 'The prohibition [of the books] came out from the Sacred Tribunal without its having before it the writings of the venerable authoress either in the original or in authentic copy.' (James A. Carrico, 'Life of Venerable Mary of Agreda', Stockbridge, Mass., Marian Press, p. 87). In other words, the book was banned without having been read.
1681 (November) - Following an uproar in Spain, Pope Innocent XI suspends his earlier sentence; that is, delays execution of the sentence until the matter has been further studied. 'With regard to the books of the holy nun, Mary of Jesus of Agreda, we have thought best to suspend our judgment, although the custom and manner of the sacred Inquisition would suggest otherwise. Given in Rome, under the ring of the Fisherman, this ninth day of November, 1681.”
1686 - Pope Innocent XI, in response to a series of virulent attacks and machinations of some members of the Sorbonne, known to be Jansenists, issues a decree permitting the publication and reading of 'The Mystical City of God'.
1689-91 - Pope Alexander VIII decrees that 'The Mystical City of God' 'may be read by everybody with impunity'.
1696 - 'The Mystical City of God' is condemned by followers of the Jansenist heresy at the Sorbonne, Paris, on the basis of a faulty translation.
1705 - Pope Clement XI decrees 'The Mystical City of God' can be read by all the faithful.
1713 - Pope Clement XI confirms the removal from the Index of 1681.
1713 - The Bishop of Ceneda, Italy, objects to the publication of 'The Mystical City of God' in his diocese. 'In the congregation held Sept. 19th, 1713, at which were present their Eminences Cardinals Acciaioli, Spada, Fabroni, and Ottoboni, it was resolved that the letter of the Inquisitor of Ceneda should be withdrawn, and that the suspensive decree [of 1681] has the power of law throughout the universal Church.' In other words, by law, no Bishop can ban the reading of 'The Mystical City of God' in his diocese.
1729 - Universities of Salamanca, Alcala de Henares, Toulouse and Louvain approve 'The Mystical City of God'. The book was also approved, at various times, by the Benedictines, the Carmelites, the Dominicans, the Jesuits and, of course, the Franciscans.
1729 - Pope Benedict XIII decides to form a new commission to continue the beatification process. 'It is ordered that the cause of the said servant of God shall be continued without any re-examination of ‘The Mystical City’ and her works may be kept and read. March 14th, 1729.'
1730 - Pope Benedict XIII dies before new commission is formed.
1730 - Pope Clement XII forms new commission to examine 'The Mystical City of God'.
1757 - Commission concludes examination 'having grown to include all of Sor María's writings' (Fedewa, Marilyn, ''Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue', p. 256).
1758 - Pope Benedict XIV writes Judicium advising future Popes against either approving or condemning 'The Mystical City of God'.
1773 - Pope Clement XIV issues 'Decree of Silence'.
1854 - Pope Pius IX proclaims the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception official dogma of the Church.
1884 - Pope Leo XIII instructs the Congregation of Rites to give an opinion on whether the Decree of Silence should be removed.
1886 - Pope Leo XIII announces that Decree of Silence will remain in force 'because, according to a decree of Pope Urban VIII [1623-44], all the manuscripts of Venerable Mary of Jesus must be submitted for a minute examination'. (James A. Carrico, 'Life of Venerable Mary of Agreda', Stockbridge, Mass., Marian Press, p. 82). This was in spite of the fact that the Congregation of Rites voted to remove the Decree of Silence by twenty votes to eight.
1900 - Pope Leo XIII gives Apostolic Benediction to publication of extracts from 'The Mystical City of God' and allows the book (the book with the extracts) to be printed by the presses of the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda in Rome.
1929 - Pope Pius XI gives Apostolic Benediction to 'all readers and promoters of The City of God'.
1995 - Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, states that a 'nihil obstat' (declaration that 'nothing stands in the way') will be required to continue with the beatification process.
1999 - Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says that 'The Mystical City of God' contains no errors of doctrine or heresies but, confusingly, also says that that the view of the Virgin Mary in the book contrasts with that of Sacred Scripture and the Mariology of Vatican II. Any continuation of the cause would carry with it an implicit approbation of a seriously dubious book and constitute an indirect promotion of the book itself.
2002 - The
Spanish Mariology Society petitions Rome to continue the beatification process.
2003 - The Vice Postulator for her Cause for Sainthood says that Sor María's prospects for beatification are good.
2008 - The newly appointed Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints,
Archbishop (now Cardinal) Angelo Amato, visits the convent in Ágreda. In response to an enquiry concerning the progress of the beatification process he stated 'We must overcome some theological difficulties, especially the Mariological harmony between the Mystical City of God and Vatican II.'

This table was compiled from Wiki Answers, 'Is The Mystical City of God by Venerable Maria Agreda a banned book?', The Daily Catholic's 'In Defence of the City of God' and Marilyn Fedewa's 'Maria of Agreda: Mystical Lady in Blue'.

Even a person with no theological training whatsoever (Yup, that's me - but I am really hot on procedure if that's any consolation) can see that the above chronology reveals some serious problems.

1. In the first place, 'The Mystical City of God' has been formally approved by four Popes (Innocent XI, Alexander VIII, Clement XI and Benedict XIII) and informally approved by a further two Popes (Leo XIII and Pius XI) and yet, in 1999, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that the view of the Virgin Mary in the book contrasts with that of Sacred Scripture and the Mariology of Vatican II. This means that six Popes have approved a book with a non-Scriptural view of the Virgin Mary, according to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Were all these Popes wrong? Also, it has to be asked whether the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can over-rule a formal papal ruling, because this appears to be what happened in 1999. Let's dig a little deeper. Ruling that the faithful can read a certain book without danger does not amount to formal church approval in the sense that the faithful are then required to believe the contents of that book as dogma but it does amount to saying that the contents are probably true and are worthy of belief (De canon., III, liii, xxii, II) ('Private Revelations', The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia)*. So, if several Popes have ruled that 'The Mystical City of God' is probably true and are worthy of belief, on what basis is 'The Mystical City of God' still considered to be a barrier to the beatification process?

It is interesting to contrast Sor María's beatification process, as outlined above, with the canonization of Saint Faustina. In both cases their writings were initially banned but, in Saint Faustina's case, the ban was reversed and the way cleared for beatification. In addition, Saint Faustina's Vatican biography includes direct quotes of her conversations with Jesus (see here also), which must mean that they are officially accepted by the Church. But if the Church can accept the validity of Saint Faustina's direct conversations with Jesus why can it not accept the validity of Sor María's conversations with the Virgin Mary, given that there can be no more proof in the former case than in the latter? The main difference seems to be the Saint Faustina was a Polish candidate for canonization supported by a Polish Pope; Pope John Paul II. There certainly seems to be some flexibility in the rules.

*'When the Church approves private revelations, she declares only that there is nothing in them contrary faith or good morals, and that they may be read without danger or even with profit; no obligation is thereby imposed on the faithful to believe them. Speaking of such revelations as (e.g.) those of St. Hildegard (approved in part by Eugenius III), St. Bridget (by Boniface IX), and St. Catherine of Siena (by Gregory XI) Benedict XIV says: "It is not obligatory nor even possible to give them the assent of Catholic faith, but only of human faith, in conformity with the dictates of prudence, which presents them to us as probable and worthy of pious belief)" (De canon., III, liii, xxii, II).' ('Private Revelations', The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia).

2. In the second place, Cardinal Ratzinger said that a 'nihil obstat' (declaration that 'nothing stands in the way') will be required to continue with the beatification process. This is standard procedure under Canon Law for any proposed publication. But the decrees of the four Popes referred to above are, in each case, a 'nihil obstat' (and the informal approval by two other Popes referred to above also amount, in effect, to a 'nihil obstat' in each case) and if it is a 'nihil obstat' covering all Sor María's works that is required then the decree of Benedict XIII covers all her works, since he decreed that 'her works [without exception] may be kept and read'. In this context, it should be noted that under canon law (Cann. 822-832) a 'nihil obstat' should be issued by the Bishop of the area in which the work was written or the Bishop of the area in which the book is to be published, which has, in fact, been done. Cann. 824 provides that it must be the local Bishop who issues a 'nihil obstat' unless otherwise provided by Canon Law. The latest 'nihil obstat' in relation to 'The Mystical City of God' is that of the Archbishop of Santa Fe dated 9 February 1949, which appears in the English edition.

In this context it is worth noting that in relation to the Garabandal apparitions, on 10 March 1996 the Sacred Congregation wrote a letter to the Bishop of Santander: 'However promoters of the Garabandal movement have tried to minimize the decisions and the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Santander. This Sacred Congregation wants it to be clearly understood that the Bishop of Santander has been and continues to be the only one with complete jurisdiction in this matter and the Holy See has no intention of examining this question any further, since it holds that the examinations already carried out are sufficient as well as are the official declarations of the Bishop of Santander. There is no truth to the statement that the Holy See has named an Official Papal Private Investigator of Garabandal and affirmations attributed to the anonymous personage to the extent that the verification of the Garabandal apparitions lies completely in the hands of Pope Paul VI and other such expressions that aim at undermining the authority of the decisions of the Bishop of Santander are completely unfounded.'

3. In the third place, Leo XIII's decision of 1886 that the Decree of Silence should remain in force 'because, according to a decree of Pope Urban VIII [1623-44], all the manuscripts of Venerable Mary of Jesus must be submitted for a minute examination' is contradictory because the 'minute examination' can only happen if the beatification process is allowed to continue; such an examination would be part of that process. In other words, Leo XIII effectively said 'We can't continue with the beatification process without conducting a minute examination and we can't conduct that minute examination because I will not allow the beatification process to continue.' This seems to have been an effective method of stalling the process so far. You will note that Leo XIII regarded as binding the decree of Urban VIII that a minute examination of Sor María's works was required but ignored the later decree of Benedict XIII that the beatification process should continue without any re-examination of 'The Mystical City of God'. So can a Pope pick and choose which decrees of his predecessors he will regard as binding on him and ignore a later decree if he happens to prefer an earlier one? Such would appear to be the case. Furthermore, canon law only requires a nihil obstat if publication is intended and many of Sor María's writings have not been published, so requiring all her manuscripts to be subject to a 'minute examination' would appear to be contrary to Canon Law.

Furthermore, a book can be approved as divinely inspired in spite of minor errors, which would imply that a minute examination is not required in any event. 'For centuries it has been clear papal teaching that even a canonized saint who has reported a private revelation which has been approved by the Church for acceptance by the faithful may have introduced some personal element that is subject to error or distortion' (Groeshel, Benedict, 'A Still Small Voice', p. 27). Augustin Poulain, SJ, cited five reasons for such errors within authentic revelations. There may have been faulty interpretation by the recipient or others; a symbolic revelation may be incorrectly interpreted as historical; the visionary will tend to mix subjective expectations and preconceived ideas with the action of divine grace; there may have been subsequent alteration or amplification; and there may be errors made in good faith by those who record the revelation. Poulain explains (Catholic Encyclopedia, 'Private Revelations') that 'Besides these rather rare means of forming an opinion, there is another, but longer and more intricate method: to discuss the reasons for and against. Practically, this examination will often give only a probability more or less great. It may be also that the revelation can be regarded as Divine in its broad outlines, but doubtful in minor details. Concerning the revelations of Marie de Agreda and Anne Catherine Emmerich, for example, contradictory opinions have been expressed: some believe unhesitatingly everything they contain, and are annoyed when anyone does not share their confidence; others give the revelations no credence whatsoever (generally on a priori grounds); finally there are many who are sympathetic, but do not know what to reply when asked what degree of credibility is to be attributed to the writings of these two ecstatics. The truth seems to be between the two extreme opinions indicated first. If there is question of a particular fact related in these books and not mentioned elsewhere, we cannot be certain that it is true, especially in minor details. In particular instances, these visionaries have been mistaken: thus Marie de Agreda teaches, like her contemporaries, the existence of crystal heavens, and declares that one must believe everything she says, although such an obligation exists only in the case of the Holy Scripture. In 1771 [other sources say 1773] Clement XIV forbade the continuation of her process of beatification "on account of the book". Catherine Emmerich has likewise given expression to false or unlikely opinions: she regards the writings of the pseudo-Dionysius as due to the Areopagite, and says strange things about the terrestrial Paradise, which, according to her, exists on an inaccessible Mountain towards Tibet. If there be question of the general statement of facts given in these works, we can admit with probability that many of them are true. For these two visionaries led lives that were regarded as very holy. Competent authorities have judged their ecstasies as divine. It is therefore prudent to admit that they received a special assistance from God, preserving them not absolutely, but in the main, from error.'

Note that the Catholic Encylopedia itself has stated that 'Competent authorities have judged [Sor María's] ecstasies as divine.'

In other words, the Catholic Encyclopedia itself says that a book may be judged to be divinely inspired on the basis of the balance of probabilities - but with respect to 'The Mystical City of God' this has already been formally done by four Popes who, in ruling that 'The Mystical City of God' may be read by the faithful, have decreed (not 'in effect' but in fact) that the book is probably true (i.e. on the balance of probabilities is true) and worthy of belief. The point is that there are innumerable saints whose writings have been approved on the basis that they are probably true and are worthy of belief and the faithful are therefore free to believe them, while not being required to do so, including Sor María's Spanish near contemporaries, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. So, if the canonisation process was allowed to proceed to a successful conclusion in the case of these saints, why has the same beatification/canonisation process not been allowed to proceed in Sor María's case when her works have been approved on a similar basis by four Popes? Why is a 'minute examination' required in her case when it has not apparently been required (as far as I know) in any other case and such a requirement is, in any event, contrary to canon law?

One of the early stages of the beatification/canonization process is an examination of the writings of the candidate. 'If nothing contrary to faith and morals is found in the writings of the servant of God, a decree is published, authorizing further action (quod in causâ procedi possit ad ulteriora), i.e., the discussion of the matter (dubium) of appointment or non-appointment of a commission for the introduction of the cause.' This process has already been completed with respect to Sor María, as explained above, meaning that her writings should not present an obstacle to the beatification process. A person cannot be created a 'Venerable' without going through this process. In other words, Sor María's beatification process is being held up by a procedure that has already been completed.

4. In the fourth place, while the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that the view of the Virgin Mary in the 'The Mystical City of God' contrasts with that of Sacred Scripture and the Mariology of Vatican II*, Lumen Gentium (para. 54) states that Vatican II 'does not, however, have it in mind to give a complete doctrine on Mary, nor does it wish to decide those questions which the work of theologians has not yet fully clarified.' But if Vatican II does not define a complete doctrine of Mary and it acknowledges that there are issues that are yet to be clarified, how can any doctrine of Mary be properly assessed by reference to it? It can't, at least not with completeness and certainty. Any doctrine that is incomplete is, by definition, faulty precisely because it is incomplete. So how can anything be properly compared to a faulty doctrine, given that one cannot know where the incompleteness (fault) lies (if one knew where the faults were one would correct them). If the 'The Mystical City of God' contains something not covered by the incomplete Mariology of Vatican II how can one know if there is an error by reference to the Mariology of Vatican II?

*Cardinal Ratzinger, in his address to the bishops of Chile on 13 July 1988 said: 'The second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.' But if Vatican II defined no dogma then the 'Mariology of Vatican II' does not amount to dogma and because it does not amount to dogma it is not binding on the faithful and cannot be used as a means of assessing compliance with dogma. This would mean that 'The Mystical City of God' was condemned by reference to a 'doctrine' that lacked proper authority, being only the result of a 'merely pastoral council'. Pope Paul VI, at the close of Vatican II on 7 December 1965, confirmed that the Council did not make infallible pronouncements. He said that the Council "as much as possible wanted to define no doctrinal principle of an extraordinary dogmatic sentence." Later, on 8 March 1972, the same Pope repeated that "it was one of the programmed items [of the Council] not to give solemn dogmatic definitions." The most explicit confirmation that Vatican II was not infallible was given by Pope Paul VI on 12 January 1966 when he stated that: "Given the pastoral character of the Council, it avoided proclaiming in an extraordinary manner dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility." (A. de Lassus, 'Vatican II: Rupture or Continuity', (French publ.), p. 11) (see here).

Thus when, in 2008, Archbishop (now Cardinal) Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said in response to an enquiry concerning the progress of the beatification process, that 'We must overcome some theological difficulties, especially the Mariological harmony between the Mystical City of God and Vatican II' he was quite simply wrong. Vatican II has no authority as dogma and cannot therefore be used to assess compliance with dogma (which is all that matters in doctrinal terms).

Furthermore, it appears that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith did not explain exactly how the view of the Virgin Mary in the 'The Mystical City of God' contrasts with that of Sacred Scripture and the Mariology of Vatican II; at least I can find no reference to an explanation in Father Enrique Lamas' 'Venerable Mother Agreda and the Mariology of Vatican II'. Surely, it was incumbent on the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to provide an explanation, if only to help people to avoid 'contrasting views' of the Virgin Mary in the future? The whole business is very unsatisfactory because it means that 'The Mystical City of God' has effectively been condemned without proper reasons being given - something no court or tribunal should do. Why didn't they carry out this perfectly normal procedure? Failure to give reasons implies that there are no good reasons for the simple reason that if you have good reasons it is obvious that you state them.

Furthermore, when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says that any continuation of the cause of beatification would carry with it an implicit approbation of a seriously dubious book and constitute an indirect promotion of the book itself, this necessarily means that it has already decided that the book is 'seriously dubious' - but without having carried out a proper examination of the book. In other words they are saying 'We cannot conduct an investigation to decide whether the book is seriously dubious because we have already decided that it is seriously dubious, without having carried out the examination required to allow us to make that assessment in the first place.' In other words 'There will be no trial to assess your guilt because we have already decided, without any trial, that you are guilty'. One just hopes that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith never finds itself in the dock; though one might be tempted to say that such conduct has already put it there. And, again, there is the question as to how the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith can overrule the formal approbation of 'The Mystical City of God' by four popes.

Furthermore, with regard to the role of the Virgin Mary as Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate of God's Children:

  • On 8 May 1928 Pope Pius XI proclaimed 'Trusting in her intercession with Christ our Lord, who though sole Mediator between God and man, wished however to make His Mother the advocate for sinners and the dispenser and mediatrix of His grace...' ('Miserentissimus Redemptor')
  • On 8 December 1953 Pope Pius XII said in a radio message 'Mary is the Mediatrix and Dispenser of graces'.
  • On 31 May 1956 Pope Pius XII proclaimed 'For she [Mary] has been appointed the Mediatrix of all the graces which look toward sanctification...' ('Sedes Sapientiae').

Furthermore, the insistence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on a strict adherence to the 'rules' in Sor María's case does not look convincing in light of their clear willingness to ignore the rules with respect to other beatifications/canonizations, some examples of which (all within the last 20 years or so) are as follows:

  • In 1982 St. Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941) was canonized as a martyr. But Kolbe did not die as a result of hatred of the Catholic Faith, he offered his life in the place of another prisoner, a Jew, in the concentration camp of Auschwitz. It was an act of charity, not an act of martyrdom.
  • In 2002 St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer (1902-1975), the founder of Opus Dei, was canonized. His beatification/canonization was described in the Los Angeles Times on 16 May 1992 as 'perhaps the most contentious beatification in modern times' and 'the most blatant example of a politicized [canonization] in modern times.' (Richard P. McBrien, 'Lives of the Saints: From Mary and St. Francis of Assisi to John XXIII and Mother Teresa', Harper Collins, New York, 2003, p. 52). The beatification/canonization procedure was riddled with apparent irregularities including the fact that some of the medical experts who attested to the miracles were members of Opus Dei (which Escrivá founded) and were therefore not independent, that witnesses critical of Escrivá were not allowed to testify and, apparently, that two of the judges of the cause asked for the procedure to be suspended. In May 1992 the journal Il Regno, published in Bologna by the congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (the Dehonians), reproduced the confidential vote of one of the judges in Escrivá's cause of beatification, in which the judge asks that the process be suspended and raises questions about the undue haste of the proceedings, the near absence of testimony from critics in the documentation gathered by the postulators, the failure of the documentation to properly address issues about Escrivá's relations with the Franco regime and with other Catholic organizations, and suggestions from the official testimonies themselves that Escrivá lacked proper spiritual humility. This document does not identify the judge by name, but he indicates that he met Escrivá only once, briefly, in 1966, while serving as a notary for the Holy Office, which implies that the judge in question was Msgr. Luigi de Magistris. In his vote (which its own contents date to August 1989), de Magistris also argues that the testimony from the main witness, Msgr. Álvaro del Portillo, who was Escrivá's confessor for 31 years, should have been totally excluded from the proceedings.
  • In 2003 Mother Teresa (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta) (1910-1997) was beatified. The alleged miracle for her beatification (the cure of a woman suffering from cancer) was denied by the team of doctors who cared for the woman. They declared their patient could well have been cured by the treatment she received. The woman’s husband also believed the cure resulted from the medical treatment, not a miracle. In addition, there are serious doubts about Mother Teresa's orthodoxy. She stated: 'Some call Him Ishwar, some call Him Allah, some simply God, but we have to acknowledge that it is He who made us for greater things: to love and be loved. What matters is that we love. We cannot love without prayer, and so whatever religion we are, we must pray together.' But the 'God' of Muslims is very different from the true God because Muslims deny the Trinity and they deny the divinity of Jesus, fundamental tenets of the Roman Catholic faith. More worryingly, she said 'Where is my faith? Even deep down ... there is nothing but emptiness and darkness ... If there be God - please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul ... How painful is this unknown pain - I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, ... What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.' This means that the Church beatified a person who did not adhere to the fundamental tenets of the Roman Catholic faith as required.
  • In 2004 Charles I of Austria (1887-1922), the former Emperor, was beatified in spite of the fact that he authorised the use of poison gas during WWI (BBC News, 3 Oct 2004).
  • In 2007 Blessed Antonio Rosmini-Serbati (1797–1855) was beatified in spite of the fact that 40 propositions in his writings had been condemned by Pope Leo XIII in 1887. The reason given for the change of mind in 2001 was that the 40 propositions were not the 'authentic position' of Rosmini but were 'possible conclusions' arising from what he wrote ('E ciò a motivo del fatto che il senso delle proposizioni, così inteso e condannato dal medesimo Decreto, non appartiene in realtà all'autentica posizione di Rosmini, ma a possibili conclusioni della lettura delle sue opere.'). The same document, signed by Cardinal Ratzinger, goes on to state 'Moreover, the same Encyclical Letter of John Paul II Fides et ratio , while he counts Rosmini among the more recent thinkers who achieved a fruitful encounter between philosophy and the Word of God, he adds at the same time that this indication does not intend "to endorse every aspect of their thought, but simply to offer significant examples of a process of philosophical inquiry which was enriched by engaging the data of faith."' This shows that the writings of a candidate for beatification can be approved even though they contain statements or propositions that are or could be interpreted as being contrary to the doctrine of the church (sufficiently serious to be publicly condemned). My view is that the 40 propositions were correctly condemned in 1887 as contrary to church doctrine but that Vatican II turned church doctrine on its head (as explained below) so what had been contrary to church doctrine before Vatican II became an expression of it after Vatican II. Hence the change of mind.
  • In 2014 Pope St. John XXIII (1881-1963) was canonized without the second miracle required for the canonization of non-martyrs.

So what is going on? 'The Mystical City of God' was bound to be controversial when it was first published because it propounded what was then a highly controversial doctrine; the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. There were powerful factions on both sides of the argument (The Maculists on the one side, who didn't believe in the Immaculate Conception, and the Immaculists on the other, who did), so it was natural (in a way) for the Church to seek to avoid provoking one side or the other by either approving or disapproving of 'The Mystical City of God'. This is exactly what Pope Benedict XIV advised in his 'Judicium' of 1758 and, in my view, this wish to avoid controversy lay behind Pope Clement XIV's 'Decree of Silence' of 1773. This situation continued until the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception became Church dogma in 1854. After that had happened the main point of controversy no longer existed, and that was why, in my view, in 1884 Pope Leo XIII instructed the Congregation of Rites to give an opinion on whether the Decree of Silence should be removed. As we know, the Congregation of Rites voted by twenty votes to eight to remove the Decree of Silence but Leo XIII decided that it should remain in force. This is something of a mystery since Pope Leo XIII promoted the role of the Virgin Mary as Co-Redeemer and Mediatrix of All Graces; the only key doctrinal proposition of 'The Mystical City of God' still unapproved at that time. Why would Pope Leo XIII support a Decree of Silence in relation to a book which propounded a key doctrine which he himself promoted, and do so in opposition to the majority view of the Congregation of Rites? It's a mystery.

Perhaps part of the answer lies in Pope Benedict XIV's fear that 'The Mystical City of God' might become the '5th Gospel' of the New Testament. 'The Mystical City of God' contains many previously unrevealed details of the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary (such as the exact day on which she conceived). Such details are not significant in doctrinal terms (that is, they have no effect on doctrine) and would normally be overlooked on the basis stated above that minor errors can be ignored when assessing private revelations. But perhaps because they are details of the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary they are not thought of as minor matters at all. Perhaps because it reveals such details 'The Mystical City of God' inevitably becomes part of the story of the life of Christ; in other words, in effect, a new Gospel of the New Testament. Perhaps 'The Mystical City of God' ceased to be 'just another private revelation' for this reason.

Perhaps from the point of view of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the key consideration was the words of Lumen Gentium (Para. 67): 'But it exhorts theologians and preachers of the divine word to abstain zealously both from all gross exaggerations as well as from petty narrow-mindedness in considering the singular dignity of the Mother of God. Following the study of Sacred Scripture, the Holy Fathers, the doctors and liturgy of the Church, and under the guidance of the Church's magisterium, let them rightly illustrate the duties and privileges of the Blessed Virgin which always look to Christ, the source of all truth, sanctity and piety. Let them assiduously keep away from whatever, either by word or deed, could lead separated brethren or any other into error regarding the true doctrine of the Church.

'The Mystical City of God' overflows with love; it is deeply moving; it is often emotionally overwhelming - so overwhelming that it has to be read in small doses. One can almost see how the intense and overwhelming feelings inspired by the book might be thought of as an irrelevant and inappropriate distraction from the role of Jesus as sole redeemer. But does this amount to a 'gross exaggeration' as per para. 67? I think not. On the other hand, it could be argued that the Virgin Mary, being human, is more approachable; a stepping-stone to her Son. In this sense she is truly Mediatrix because she brings us to her Son, and love of her should be fostered accordingly; she is Mediatrix between us and Jesus and Jesus is Mediator between us, who come to him through Mary, and God. If Jesus is literally sole Mediator then no prayers to the Saints should be allowed. The fact that such prayers are allowed proves that Mediators between us and Jesus already exist; so why cannot the Virgin Mary also be a Mediatrix? Any fear that love of the Virgin Mary might be an inappropriate distraction from her Son is, in my opinion, unjustified and unworthy because one cannot truly love the Virgin Mary without truly loving her Son, so that true love of the former inevitably leads to, or rather necessarily involves, a true love of the latter - with no confusion as to the relative roles of either (one is the path to the other). How can anyone think that love of the Virgin Mary is inappropriate?

Given that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that are no errors of doctrine in 'The Mystical City of God' , how can the view of the Virgin Mary in that book contrast with that of Sacred Scripture and the Mariology of Vatican II? The answer seems to be a desire, expressed in Lumen Gentium (Para. 67), to avoid doing anything that might lead 'separated brethren [that is, Protestants and others] into error regarding the true doctrine of the Church'. But is it right to play down the true role of the Virgin Mary (for this is what has happened since Vatican II) and to deny the fervent wishes of the six million Roman Catholics, including more than 500 Cardinals and Bishops, who signed the petition requesting papal recognition of the Virgin Mary as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate of God's Children, in order to satisfy the beliefs or prejudices of people outside the Roman Catholic Church who do not accept Roman Catholic Mariology and probably never will?* Is it possible that the simple word 'Co' in Co-Redemptrix is holding up the beatification of Sor María because non-Catholics might find it confusing to the extent of believing that it implies equality between the Virgin Mary and her son? The Roman Catholic Church should have the courage of its convictions.

*The issue of women in the clergy has driven an even greater wedge between the Roman Catholic Church and other denominations, who, it is to be noted, did not allow any consideration for their relationship with the Roman Catholic Church to stand in their way in this matter. This seems to mean that that Roman Catholic Church is expected to make concessions but that other denominations are not.

Vatican II (The Second Vatican Council of 1962-65).

Cardinal Angelo Amato, president of the 23rd International Mariological Marian Congress held in Rome in September 2012 and prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, said Vatican II was a 'momentous watershed moment for Marian discourse', steering it away from 'every undeserved doctrinal and devotional exaggeration' which would put Mary on equal ground with the Lord. ('Misreading of Vatican II led to 'collapse' in Marian devotion, studies', Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service, 7 September 2012). Given that Cardinal Amato is the person ultimately in charge of Sor María's beatification process, it looks as though she has missed the boat. Still, the Church presumably knows what it is doing, it is just a pity that their actions have led to a collapse in Marian devotion since Vatican II.

The website 'Vatican II - The Voice of the Church' states 'A mood of hope and reform resulted together with a release from earlier narrowness. That narrowness had included the teaching extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the church there is no salvation). But the Council steered a new more inclusive and hopeful course, shown throughout the sixteen documents it produced.' This makes it clear that the main result of Vatican II was approval of the idea that salvation could be achieved outside the Roman Catholic Church; in other words, that the Roman Catholic Church is, quite simply, unnecessary (a curious thing for a Church to say of itself). The reformers believed that the Church could only survive by changing, whereas the opposite is true - the Church can only survive by remaining true to itself as the unchanging voice of eternal truth. This statement seems to be based on Lumen Gentium which states (para. 14): 'This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism(124) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.' and (para. 16): 'Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.' Note 124 refers to Mark 16:16 which states (KJV) 'He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.' Thus Lumen Gentiun para 14. introduces a qualification not in Mark 16:16; namely that the only people who cannot be saved are those who know that faith and baptism are required for salvation and still refuse to enter into or remain in the Church. This qualification opens the door to Lumen Gentium para. 16, which says that those who neither believe nor are baptized can be saved, merely on the basis that they try to lead a good life.* This is a direct contradiction of the words of Jesus himself: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.' (KJV, John 14:6) and 'Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.' (Acts 4:12).** Thus the whole basis of the Roman Catholic faith was swept away in a single stroke; faith and baptism are no longer necessary for salvation and Jesus is not the way, the truth or the life.

*The statement seems to be based on Acts 10:34-35 and 44-48 which states 'Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him... While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.' This seems to me to say that while any person can be baptized, baptism into the Christian faith (i.e. acceptance of Jesus as the Redeemer) is still necessary for salvation; it does not say that baptism is unnecessary for salvation.

**See also Matthew 7:14 ('Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.'), Luke 13:24 ('Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.'), 1 Timothy 2:5 ('For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.'), John 8:24 ('I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.'). And here is the most important sentence in the Bible: 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' (John 3:16)

So the Church which abandoned the single most important tenet of the Faith (that the only path to salvation is through Jesus) condemns 'The Mystical City of God' as 'seriously dubious'? The point is this. If a person can be saved (redeemed) other than through Jesus Christ then Jesus Christ is no longer the Sole Redeemer. In fact, a belief in anything or nothing can be the path to redemption, according to Vatican II. This means that anything or nothing can be a 'Redeemer', which means that anything or nothing can, in effect, be a 'Co-Redeemer'; that is, a different path to salvation. But since the Roman Catholic Church has ruled (apparently) that the Virgin Mary cannot be 'Co-Redeemer' this means that the Virgin Mary is the only person or thing in the world (or out of it) that cannot be 'Co-Redeemer'. A monkey-god can be a path to redemption, which makes the monkey-god a 'Co-Redeemer' (along with Christ) and belief in nothing can be a path to redemption (a 'Co-Redeemer'), since a person does not have to believe in God to be redeemed (according to Vatican II) - but the Virgin Mary cannot be a 'Co-Redeemer'. Of course, this is utterly preposterous and exposes the logical fallacies of Vatican II.

Pope St. Gregory the Great said "The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in her and asserts that all who are outside of her will not be saved."

So, we have a Servant of God who was exonerated by two investigations by the Inquisition during her own lifetime (not just exonerated for the Inquisition left humbled and in awe); who is deemed by the Church to have lived a life of heroic virtue (having been made a Venerable of the Church); who was the single most important inspiration behind the work of missionaries in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and California and thus also of the expansion of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States (who was therefore responsible, more than anyone else, for the United States becoming the 'Land of Mary Immaculate' in 1846); who worked many well-attested miracles (even excluding her 500 or more bilocations, which are themselves unparalleled in the history of the Church or the lives of the Saints); whose major work, 'The Mystical City of God', has been formally approved by four Popes (Innocent XI, Alexander VIII, Clement XI and Benedict XIII), informally approved by another two (Leo XIII and Pius XI), approved by the universities of Salamanca, Alcala de Henares, Toulouse and Louvain and also approved by the Benedictines, the Carmelites, the Dominicans, the Jesuits and the Franciscans; all of whose works have been formally approved by Benedict XIII; whose ecstasies are deemed to have been divine (according to the Catholic Encyclopedia) ; who propounded three major propositions, two of which (the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility) have since been declared dogma, while the third (the Virgin Mary as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate of God's Children) has the support of at least six million Roman Catholics (those who signed the related petition), including over 500 Cardinals and Bishops; whose body has remained incorrupt since 1665 (itself a miracle and sign of sainthood); whose major work has never been out of print (in fact, has been reprinted over 250 times) and has been read by millions of people (over 200,000 copies of 'The Mystical City of God' have been sold in the US since 1978 according to M. Fedewa ('Tradicion Revista', December 2005, Volume X, No.3)); who is widely remembered and loved and who inspires intense devotion amongst her followers. Remind me again why she has not been canonized in over 300 years?

Mind you, it took the Church 1800 years to decide that the Mother of God was immaculately conceived, so I guess one shouldn't regard 300 years as an inordinate delay in that context. Perhaps the Church will make its mind up within the next 1000 years. But failure to make a decision either way implies doubt, which is hard to reconcile with infallibility, and it implies satisfaction with a very unsatisfactory situation.

Here's a thought. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says that Sor María's view of the Virgin Mary is, to be blunt, wrong. And yet Sor María, a woman largely without formal education, perceived, with absolute certainty, through revelation, a truth which had evaded the Church for over 1600 years, and which continued to evade the Church for another 250 years; namely, the Immaculate Conception. She did the same with the doctrine of papal infallibility. On the basis that the Church eventually recognized two of the three major doctrines she propounded and that over six million of the faithful, including over 500 Cardinals and Bishops, support the third doctrine she propounded (the Virgin Mary as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces and Advocate of God's Children), do you begin to get a feeling that she might be right?

Here's another thought. Since Vatican II said that non-Catholic Christians (indeed, non-Christians) can be saved, it follows that if a non-Catholic 'sect' were to declare the Virgin Mary to be 'Co-Redemptrix' then the Roman Catholic Church would still hold that members of that 'sect' can be saved and would still maintain friendly relations with that 'sect'. So, if a non-Catholic 'sect' can declare the Virgin Mary to be 'Co-Redemptrix' and still be saved, why can't the Roman Catholic Church do the same? Since you don't even have to be Christian to be saved, according to Vatican II, (that is, you don't even have to believe in God) it simply doesn't matter what titles you give to the Virgin Mary. This is the logical result of Vatican II. Perhaps they should have thought about that.

In this context, it is worth recalling what Benedict XVI said in his General Audience at Paul VI Hall on 7 July 2010 ('John Duns Scotus'): 'In this regard I would like to highlight a fact that I consider relevant. Concerning the teaching on the Immaculate Conception, important theologians like Duns Scotus enriched what the People of God already spontaneously believed about the Blessed Virgin and expressed in acts of devotion, in the arts and in Christian life in general with the specific contribution of their thought. Thus faith both in the Immaculate Conception and in the bodily Assumption of the Virgin was already present in the People of God, while theology had not yet found the key to interpreting it in the totality of the doctrine of the faith. The People of God therefore precede theologians and this is all thanks to that supernatural sensus fidei, namely, that capacity infused by the Holy Spirit that qualifies us to embrace the reality of the faith with humility of heart and mind. In this sense, the People of God is the "teacher that goes first" and must then be more deeply examined and intellectually accepted by theology. May theologians always be ready to listen to this source of faith and retain the humility and simplicity of children! I mentioned this a few months ago saying: "There have been great scholars, great experts, great theologians, teachers of faith who have taught us many things. They have gone into the details of Sacred Scripture... but have been unable to see the mystery itself, its central nucleus.... The essential has remained hidden!... On the other hand, in our time there have also been "little ones" who have understood this mystery. Let us think of St Bernadette Soubirous; of St Thérèse of Lisieux, with her new interpretation of the Bible that is "non-scientific' but goes to the heart of Sacred Scripture" (Homily, Mass for the Members of the International Theological Commission, Pauline Chapel, Vatican City, 1 December 2009).'

'I will yet pour out doctrine as prophecy, and will leave it to them that seek wisdom, and will not cease to instruct their offspring even to the holy age' (Ecclus. 24:46).

Well, these are just the thoughts of a goof with no theological training whatsoever. What would I know? Well, what I do know is that devotees of Sor María find this situation contradictory, distressing and disheartening, while, of course, never losing hope. The Church hierarchy should not treat its own faithful in this way.

Rosa Mystica - A window in the Lady Chapel of St George's Cathedral, Southwark.

'Rosa Mystica' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

'The Rose is a mystery - where is it found?
Is it anything true?  Does it grow on the ground?
It was made of the earth's mould, but it went from men's eyes,
And its place is a secret, and shut in the skies.
In the Gardens of God, in the daylight divine
Find me a place by thee, Mother of mine.

But where was it formerly?  Which is the spot
That was blest in it once, though now it is not?
It is Galilee's growth; it grew at God's will
and broke into bloom upon Nazareth Hill.
In the Gardens of God, in the daylight divine
I shall look on thy loveliness, Mother of mine.

What was its season, then?  How long ago?
When was the summer that saw the Bud blow?
Two thousands of years are near upon past
Since its birth, and its bloom, and its breathing its last.
In the Gardens of God, in the daylight divine
I shall keep time with thee, Mother of mine.

Tell me the name now, tell me its name:
The heart guesses easily, is it the same?
Mary, the Virgin, well the heart knows,
She is the Mystery, she is that Rose.
In the Gardens of God, in the daylight divine
I shall come home to thee, Mother of mine.

Is Mary that Rose then?  Mary, the tree?
But the Blossom, the Blossom there, who can it be?
Who can her Rose be?  It could be but One:
Christ Jesus, our Lord - her God and her Son.
In the Gardens of God, in the daylight divine
Shew me thy son, Mother, Mother of mine.

What was the color of that Blossom bright?
White to begin with, immaculate white.
But what a wild flush on the flakes of it stood,
When the Rose ran in crimsoning down the Cross wood.
In the Gardens of God, in the daylight divine
I shall worship the Wounds with thee, Mother of mine.

How many leaves had it?  Five they were then,
Five like the senses, and members of men;
Five is the number by nature, but now
They multiply, multiply, who can tell how.
In the Gardens of God, in the daylight divine
Make me a leaf in thee, Mother of mine.

Does it smell sweet, too, in that holy place?
Sweet unto God, and the sweetness is grace;
The breath of it bathes the great heaven above,
In grace that is charity, grace that is love.
To thy breast, to thy rest, to thy glory divine
Draw me by charity, Mother of mine.

Sor (Sister) María's detractors

I hope I have already addressed all the key points raised by detractors of Sor María, in particular detractors of the 'Lady in Blue' story, but I am sure that there are some I have not identified. I have not tried to disprove detractors directly; I have simply tried to look at the evidence and see where it leads. In any event, it is useful to look at certain specific statements, either because they tend to be raised by detractors generally or because they illustrate the way in which detractors tend to argue, which is often to make assertions that are simply not justified on the facts or to cherry-pick certain facts to support their pre-determined point of view. It is relatively easy to deal with the arguments of those who are clearly 'anti' or who have an obvious agenda of some sort (which is usually anti-religious or anti-Catholic in one way or another) but it is harder to deal with the scepticism and lack of faith exhibited by those who are nominally on Sor María's side. The most notable example is the Roman Catholic Church itself of course; it is hard to argue in support of Sor María when the Church itself declines to do so. Well anyway, here goes.

The Institute of Texan Culture of the University of Texas ('The Texians and the Texans - The Spanish Texans'):

A 1972 paper ('The Texians and the Texans - The Spanish Texans') by the Institute of Texan Culture of the University of Texas at San Antonio states: 'One of three friars left in East Texas by Massanet [Fray Damian Massanet] in 1690, Fray Francisco Casañas founded a second mission, Santisimo Nombre de Maria, but it was washed away by a flood. A fearful epidemic in the winter of 1690-91 killed one friar and some 3,000 Indians. When Massanet returned in August, he was accompanied by Fray Francisco Hidalgo, who asked Casañas to write a report to the viceroy. The result was the first report ever written about Texas on Texas soil; it was a plain statement of fact. But it annihilated any notion that this could have been the "kingdom" visited by Maria de Agreda. There was no trace of a Christian tradition among these heathen, Casañas said. They stretched their prisoners of war on a frame and cut off pieces of the living body, which they roasted and ate. They liked blue because it was the color of the sky - not, as Massanet had claimed, because a "Lady in Blue" had preached to them long ago. The word "Texias" (as Casañas spelled it) applied to all the allies of the Hasinai, many of whom spoke different tongues - not to any one land or people.'

The question here is whether the fact that a certain tribe with certain characteristics was found in a certain area in Texas in 1691 necessarily means that the whole of Texas was occupied by tribes with similar characteristics some 70 years previously. Does the one necessarily imply the other? Clearly not; no conclusions can be drawn from this information about the whole of Texas in 1691, let alone in the 1620s.

A similar picture of cannibalism to that painted by Casañas is recorded by Pénicaut and quoted in 'Source Material on the History and Ethnology of the Caddo Indians' (J. R. Swanton, Smithsonian Institution Bureau of Ethnology, Bulletin 132, Washington, 1942) but that paper states (p. 189): 'Pénicault, who accompanied St. Denis across Hasinai country in 1714, gives another picture of warfare among these people in which none of the gruesome details are spared, though, from his tendency not to overwork truth where a good story is to be extracted, it should be treated with some caution.' Tales of cannibalism should therefore be taken with a pinch of salt.

Even if cannibalism did occur that does not necessarily mean that the tribes concerned were not open to Christian ideas. Consider the fact that Christians themselves are (or used to be) quite capable of praying to God (the God of love and forgiveness) before a battle and then, after they have killed as many of their enemies as possible (often fellow Christians), of thanking God (the God of love and forgiveness) for helping them to do so. A capacity for evil does not preclude belief and belief does not preclude a capacity for evil.

Kate Risse, Tufts University ('Strategy of a Provincial Nun: Sor María de Jesús de Agreda’s Response'):

In 'Strategy of a Provincial Nun: Sor María de Jesús de Agreda’s Response', Kate Risse, Tufts University, states 'For example, she states that her contact with the Indians in New Mexico occurred in a vision, infused into her mind or soul, intellectual in nature: “Paréceme que un día después de haber recibido a Nuestro Señor me mostró su Magestad todo el mundo, y a mi parecer con especies abstractivas y conocí la variedad de cosas criadas, cuán admirable es el Señor en la diversidad de la tierra” (“Relación,” 170v).' This is translated as 'It seems to me that it was the day after having received Our Lord that His Majesty showed me the whole world, or so it appeared to me, by means of abstract figures, and I perceived the variety of created things and how astonishing the Lord is in the universal diversity of the earth.' ('The Visions of Sor Maria de Agreda: Writing Knowledge and Power', by Clark A. Colahan, University of Arizona Press, 1994, p. 118).

This statement was actually about the experiences Sor María described in her treatise, 'Face of the Earth and Map of the Spheres', it does not relate to her bilocations to the American South-West at all, so Kate Risse deliberately conflates the two. Sor María acknowledged that her visions of the Earth were visions, but with regard to her bilocations she said that she actually seemed to travel from one place to another ('seemed' because she couldn't be sure, which is hardly surprising). As I have already made clear, when interrogated by the Inquisition in 1650, Sor María re-affirmed her earlier statements about her bilocations.

'Later in her life, however, she dismissed the authenticity of her exordium, as well as de Benavides’s accompanying letters to the friars, in which he describes many miraculous feats he claimed she executed.' ('Strategy of a Provincial Nun: Sor María de Jesús de Agreda’s Response', Kate Risse, Tufts University, p. 2). This is quite simply false, as I have made clear above, and as is shown by the following statements made by Sor María in her 'Report to Father Manero' and quoted by Colahan (the paper cited by Risse):

  • 'Whether or not I really and truly went in body is something about which I cannot be certain...' ('The Visions of Sor Maria de Agreda: Writing Knowledge and Power', by Clark A. Colahan, University of Arizona Press, 1994, p. 121);
  • 'In support of the opinion that I was really making the trips is the circumstance, which the fathers must have found convincing, that I saw each of these kingdoms clearly and knew their names, they appearing to my understanding individually (these are the ones that appear in the report), and that I saw the cities and recognized the differences between them and the ones here, and that the climate and weather were different - warmer. Their foods were primitive and for their light they used wooden torches. I would address them and explain all the articles of faith, exhorting them and teaching the catechism. They were receptive to all of this and sort of bowed, acclaiming the great good they were receiving and making entreaties. And although this is true, I have always questioned the idea that it happened to me in my body, the case being so extraordinary and unusual....' (p. 122);
  • 'It seems to me that on one occasion I gave the Indians rosaries...' (p. 122);
  • 'The way in which I am most inclined to believe this happened and that seems most credible to me was, or is, that an angel, taking on my looks, appeared there and preached and taught them the catechism, while the Lord showed me what was going on there as an answer to my prayers...' (p. 122);
  • 'Father Benavide's statement says further that it would have been five hundred times or more that I went to those kingdoms. I have already said that I do not know whether I really went or some angel for me. But if the number five hundred is taken to represent all the times I became aware of those kingdoms, in one way or another, or all the times I prayed for or wanted their conversion, in that sense it is true, and the number would be even more than five hundred...' (p. 125);
  • 'My considered opinion of this whole case is that it actually happened, but the way and the 'how' are not easily known since it happened so many years ago; since the Indians said they had seen me, either I myself or some angel who looked like me did go there.' (p. 127).

So Sor María confirmed that what she had said at the time was true but that, unsurprisingly, she could not be certain how it happened; that is, whether she actually physically went to the American South-West.

Risse's paper illustrates quite neatly the tactics used to try and undermine Sor María.

Henry Charles Lea ('A History of the Inquisition of Spain'):

'María de Jesus, commonly known as Sor María de Agreda, to whom Philip thus turned for counsel, was too strongly entrenched in the royal favor to be in danger from the Inquisition yet, notwithstanding that favor, her revelations were rejected by Rome, thus furnishing another example of the difficulty of differentiating between sanctity and heresy. She had practised mental prayer from the time when she was able to use her reason, and she was in constant communication with God, the Virgin and the angels. Her fame filled the land, and her voluminous writings, which claim to be inspired, still form part of the devotional literature of the faithful. She so captured the confidence of Philip that he made her his chief adviser; for twenty-two years, until her death in 1665, four months before his own, he maintained constant correspondence with her by every post. Her influence thus was almost unbounded, but she seems never to have abused it; her advice was usually sound, and she never sought the enrichment of the impoverished convent of Agreda, of which she was the superior. With all the power of the Franciscan Order and of the Spanish court to sustain her claims to sanctity, the canonization of such a personage would seem almost a matter of course, and it would doubtless have been effected if she had not reduced her revelations to writing. However they might suit the appetite of Spanish piety, nourished so long on mystic extravagance, they did not appeal to the sober judgement of the rest of the Catholic world. In spite of their divine inspiration, her Letanía y nombres misteriosos de la Reina del Cielo and her Mística Ciudad de Dios were condemned in Rome, and the decree as to the latter was posted on the doors of St. Peter's, August 4, 1681. The Mística Ciudad was eminently popular in Spain and, at the instance of the Spanish court, its prohibition was suspended. The Inquisition took advantage of this, in 1686, to issue a decree permitting its circulation, at which the Congregation of the Index was naturally offended and, in 1692, the papal decree of condemnation appeared in the Appendix to the Index of Innocent XI, in spite of which the book was formally permitted by the Spanish Inquisition. When, in 1695, a translation by Père Thomas Croset appeared in France, the Sorbonne, by decree of September 27, 1696, condemned it as containing propositions contrary to the rules of ecclesiastical modesty, and many fables and dreams from the Apocrypha, exposing Catholicism to the contempt of the heretics. The Spanish court labored earnestly to obtain a renewal of the suspension and finally succeeded, so that the book was omitted from the 1716 Index of Clement XI. Then in 1729, the subject was again taken up, when, after a long debate, the book was permitted, though Dr. Eusebius Amort tells us that in Rome, in 1735, he was shown a decree of Benedict XIII renewing the prohibition and asserting that its withdrawal had been obtained fraudulently; still, the book has never since reappeared in the Index. There was a similar struggle over the Letanía, which was still included in the 1716 Index of Clement XI and the first Index of Benedict XIV, in 1744, but has disappeared from all succeeding issues. Less successful thus far has been the persistent effort to procure the canonization of Madre María, leading to a papal decree of April 27, 1773, forbidding all future proceedings in the case. Notwithstanding this, Leo XIII, on March 10, 1884, ordered the Congregation of Rites to consider in secret whether this prohibition could be removed. To suggest such a discussion is almost equivalent to prejudging it affirmatively but, before the decision was reached, chance led to the publication in the Deutscher Merkur of December 29, 1889, of the whole secret history of the case, which has probably put an end, at least for the present, to the prospect of enrolling in the calendar of saints one whose revelations have been so repeatedly condemned as illusory or as emanating from Satan.' Henry Charles Lea, 'A History of the Inquisition of Spain', Vol. 4, Book 8, Chapter 5.

Let's look at just three statements:

Statement My response
'María de Jesus, commonly known as Sor María de Agreda, to whom Philip thus turned for counsel, was too strongly entrenched in the royal favor to be in danger from the Inquisition...' As I have stated above: 'The man who ordered the interrogation of Sor Maria in 1650 was the same man who ordered the arrest of the King's Secretary in 1644, Inquisitor-General Arce y Reynoso. Evidently he was not afraid of accusing even those closest to the King, so any claim that Sor Maria was treated leniently because of her connection to the King can be dismissed.'
'...[her writings] did not appeal to the sober judgement of the rest of the Catholic world...' Her major work, 'The Mystical City of God', has been formally approved by four Popes (Innocent XI, Alexander VIII, Clement XI and Benedict XIII), informally approved by another two (Leo XIII and Pius XI), approved by the universities of Salamanca, Alcala de Henares, Toulouse and Louvain and also approved by the Benedictines, the Carmelites, the Dominicans, the Jesuits and the Franciscans. Her main opponents, the Jansenists of the Sorbonne, were eventually condemned and supressed as heretics.
'...one whose revelations have been so repeatedly condemned as illusory or as emanating from Satan...' 'Competent authorities have judged their [Marie de Agreda and Anne Catherine Emmerich] ecstasies as divine.' (Catholic Encyclopedia). See also previous entry.

No more needs to be said.

Nancy Parrott Hickerson ('The Jumanos', University of Texas Press, 1994):

Robert Plocheck, associate editor of the Texas Almanac 2004–2005 says that 'Nancy Parrott Hickerson, in her book, The Jumanos (1994), gives a skeptic's account of the miracle story. She questions the Indians' motives, suggesting they may have wanted Spanish protection from other tribes. She says also that their elementary foreknowledge of Christianity could have been acquired over decades of contacts with the Spanish. And, she sees leading questions and a flawed investigation. But, whether believer or skeptic, all agree on certain points, beginning with the fact that the Indians requested instruction, and that the same tale was told on both sides of the Atlantic.' I have already explained above how suggestions are magically turned into arguments which are then magically turned into conclusions, but suggesting that something may have happened is very far from demonstrating, with evidence, that it actually did happen. As for de Benavides 'leading' Sor María, I have already explained that this was impossible because he questioned Sor María in the presence of two people who knew her story in detail already. No more needs to be said.

Sandra Miesel ('Mary of Agreda', Catholic International):

'Far more significant are the book's errors in biology which are so profound as to discredit it completely as God's own truth. As a woman of the seventeenth century, Mary of Agreda depends on Aristotle's false theory of human reproduction in which the female is a mere incubator who provided blood to nourish the male seed. Thus the Virgin's body arrives preformed in St. Joachim's sperm, with no ovum from St. Anne required. By special grace, Holy Mary receives her soul on her seventh day in the womb, unlike other females who must wait eighty days. (I: pp.173-83) The physiology of Christ's conception is likewise grotesque. There is no Marian egg for the Incarnation: Jesus is conceived from three drops of blood literally squeezed out of his Mother's heart (II: pp. 110-12). He has no need of placenta or amniotic sac either, which Mary of Agreda fancies to be consequences of Original Sin (II: pp 399-402). Jesus is, of course, ensouled immediately. (The abridged edition of The Mystical City of God camouflages these matters.) Mary of Agreda systematically projects her own circumstances as a cloistered Franciscan nun onto the Blessed Mother and her son in matters of food, clothing, seclusion, deportment, piety, and poverty... Time has cost The Mystical City of God whatever credibility or spiritual value it once had, leaving Mary of Agreda as a curious footnote in Church history.'

Miesel clearly regards Sor María's statements as preposterous because she considers them to be unscientific ('errors in biology') - as opposed to the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection I suppose, which she must regard as scientific (Since she clearly doesn't believe in anything unscientific it follows that if she does believe in something it can only be because she regards it as scientific). Well, the Virgin Birth is not scientific, so it becomes clear that science is not what makes the difference; it is faith. The simple fact is that Miesel believes one but not the other, as a matter of faith, in spite of dressing her argument up as science. But why? Because she regards one (the Bible) as divine but not the other ('The Mystical City of God'). This is a self-referencing, circular argument along the lines: 'I believe in the Bible because it is the Word of God and it is the Word of God because I believe it to be so.' This becomes 'I believe in the Bible because I believe in the Bible.' It is not for me to criticize belief in the Bible but I can criticize people who believe in something as a matter of faith (i.e. not as a matter of provable science) and then dismiss something else because it is not scientific. The essential point here is that if you have faith then you cannot dismiss something on the grounds that it requires the very faith you profess to have. The short answer to Miesel is as follows: 'If you believe in God then you believe in miracles. If you believe in miracles you cannot dismiss something on the basis that it is unscientific (i.e. on the basis that it would have to be a miracle). If you don't believe in God or miracles then you won't believe anything about Sor María anyway, so there is no point in arguing the matter.' But this ignores the central purpose of this paper, which is to establish that, according to legal standards of proof, Sor María's bilocations actually happened. Having done this we have established that Sor María was an instrument of the divine will - and because she was an instrument of the divine will in her bilocations it follows that she was also an instrument of the divine will in her writings. Hence you must believe in 'The Mystical City of God' not as a matter of faith but as a matter of demonstrated fact - demonstrated in accordance with relevant legal standards of proof. So, Meisel has tried to use science (rational argument) to prove that we should not believe Sor María; I have used the same method (rational argument - law applied to the evidence) to prove that we must. Once we have accepted that Sor María was an instrument of the divine will, the sky, as they say, is the limit.

Having said that, it does not follow that every detail of her writings is necessarily correct or needs to be correct in order for her revelations to be accepted as divine (not every word was dictated to her, as she makes clear). As I have quoted above: 'A vision need not guarantee its accuracy in every detail. One should thus beware of concluding without examination that revelations are to be rejected; the prudent course is neither to believe nor to deny them unless there is sufficient reason for so doing. Much less should one suspect that the saints have been always, or very often deceived in their vision. On the contrary, such deception is rare, and as a rule in unimportant matters only.' ('Private Revelations', The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia).

It is worth noting, in this context, what the Catholic Encyclopedia says under 'Immaculate Conception': 'St. John Damascene (Or. i Nativ. Deip., n. 2) esteems the supernatural influence of God at the generation of Mary to be so comprehensive that he extends it also to her parents. He says of them that, during the generation, they were filled and purified by the Holy Ghost, and freed from sexual concupiscence. Consequently according to the Damascene, even the human element of her origin, the material of which she was formed, was pure and holy. This opinion of an immaculate active generation and the sanctity of the "conceptio carnis" was taken up by some Western authors; it was put forward by Petrus Comestor in his treatise against St. Bernard and by others. Some writers even taught that Mary was born of a virgin and that she was conceived in a miraculous manner when Joachim and Anne met at the golden gate of the temple (Trombelli, "Mari SS. Vita", Sect. V, ii, 8; Summa aurea, II, 948. Cf. also the "Revelations" of Catherine Emmerich which contain the entire apocryphal legend of the miraculous conception of Mary.)' What would Sandra Miesel say about this?

But there is something we are overlooking. The Bible says the Earth was created in seven days. Most people would say that this is an error in science. So does this cost the Bible whatever credibility it once had as per Sandra Meisel's argument? No. Let's consider why. When Sandra Meisel was a little girl, she asked her father where she came from. He answered 'You were delivered by a stork.' Some years later Sandra found out that this was untrue. So did she therefore discount everything her father had ever told her and call him a liar? No. Why not? Because she realized that her father was trying to satisfy her need for an explanation while, at the same time, protecting her from a revelation which she would not have understood at the time (and which might even have had a damaging effect on her) and so gave her an explanation which was in accordance with the capabilities of her understanding and the state of her knowledge at the time. In other words, at the age of four she was not in a position to fully understand the proper biological explanation of her birth - nor would it have done her any good to have it explained to her at that time. It seems to me that God does the same thing with his children. He explains things to us in terms that are appropriate to our level of understanding at the time. This is not just in our best interests but it is absolutely necessary. The truth can only be revealed when it is appropriate to do so. Consider what would have happened if God had tried to explain the origin of life to someone in Biblical times. He would have said something like 'Well, let's start with e=mc². Oh, wait, there is an ocean of stuff you need to know to fully understand this. If I tell it to you now, it will upset the whole course of human history and probably drive you mad. I tell you what, forget the science; you'll pick it up later. So here goes. In the beginning I created the heaven and the earth...'. Now do you get it? God leads us to the truth, but gently - not like a bull in a china shop.

T. D. Kendrick ('Mary of Agreda: The Life and Legend of a Spanish Nun', Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1967)

Kendrick's biography is not so obviously 'anti' but he does make some comments that are unsubstantiated. Most notable is his statement concerning Sor María's meeting with de Benavides in 1631, of which he states (p. 35): 'Mary, subjected to what must have been a non-stop stream of leading questions and broad hints [from de Benavides]...'. Why must there have been a non-stop stream of leading questions and broad hints? Kendrick provides no evidence to support this assertion and I have come across none anywhere else (a similar assertion of 'leading questions' by another 'anti' is not evidence). One can only assume that if Kendrick had actually found any evidence then he would have cited it. We can only conclude that because Kendrick cited no evidence that he had none - which makes his statement a mere unsupported assertion.

Elsewhere (Chapter 4) Kendrick tries to undermine the 'Lady in Blue' story in some very subtle (and some not so subtle) ways, including selective quotation. The worst example of this is where he quotes extensively from the 'Report to Father Manero' (quoted above) but, while he includes all the instances where she expresses doubts and reservations, he leaves out the most important statement of all - the one in which Sor María says, in conclusion, that 'My considered opinion of this whole case is that it actually happened, but the way and the 'how' are not easily known since it happened so many years ago; since the Indians said they had seen me, either I myself or some angel who looked like me did go there.' ('The Visions of Sor Maria de Agreda: Writing Knowledge and Power', by Clark A. Colahan, University of Arizona Press, 1994, p. 127). Kendrick works hard to give the impression that she later repudiated essentially all the things she said at the time (in the 1620s) about her bilocations or said to Benavides when she met him in 1631, whereas we can see that she actually affirmed the essential truth of them, while quite understandably saying that she was not sure of 'the way and the 'how''. In other words, Kendrick simply turned what Sor María said on its head.

With regard to Sor María's appearances as the 'Lady in Blue' Kendrick says (p. 51): 'The second point is that instead of the 'lady in blue' legends being the result of the apparition of a Discalsed Conceptionist nun in her blue cloak, it is much more probable [Why?] that they originate in Indian respect for a coloured statuette of the Virgin, blue-robed as she is so frequently represented.' Later on (p. 55) he says: 'All this [being instances of Indians lying to the Spaniards] means that it is not unfair to suggest that the gullibility of Father Benavides must almost have equalled that of Father Marcos of Nice, and that the tale of their nun told by the Jumanos, assuredly with the Virgin Mary in mind, was as fictitious as a tale told by the Turk [an Indian who misled Coronado with tales about 'cities of gold' in 1541].' Thus, the unsupported suggestion that it was 'much more probable' that the story of the Lady in Blue was inspired by a blue statuette of the Virgin Mary than by a nun dressed in blue miraculously becomes a certainty, on the basis that there were recorded instances of the Indians lying to the Spaniards and therefore the Jumanos must have been lying in this instance as well. Apart from the fact that this argument is tenuous in the extreme, we know for a fact that the only Madonna known to have been in New Mexico at that time ('La Conquistadora', which was at Santa Fe) was actually painted red and gold, not blue ((Jaima Chevalier, 'La Conquistadora', Sunstone Press, Santa Fe, p. 74). One other point is that Kendrick made this argument in relation to the 1699 report by Captain Mateo Mange which described how the Indians of the Colorado had twice shot the 'Lady in Blue' with arrows. But if the Indians respected the Virgin, as Kendrick claims, why did they shoot her?

With regard to the report of 1690 by Father Damian Massanet (see above) to the effect that he was asked by a Teja chief for some blue cloth for a shroud for his mother, who, along with other elders of the tribe, had seen the 'Lady in Blue' in her youth, Kendrick says ''Lady in Blue' legends are numerous in Texas [Why would that be? Are they also common in neighbouring Louisiana, for instance? And if not, why not?], especially in the San Antonio valley in the South [which is nowhere near where the incident took place in fact]. Most of them are pretty legends of a mysterious white woman in blue robes. She makes rare appearances, sometimes from an underground home, to perform small miracles of healing and other acts of charity.' Well, OK. Firstly, if most of the stories are pretty legends, does that mean that some of them are not pretty legends; that is, are true? Secondly, all of the other stories might be pretty legends but that does not necessarily mean that this one is. The truth of this particular story must be assessed on its own merits. When we do this we find that the story is not a legend; it was reported as simple fact and we have no evidence to suggest either that the Teja chief lied to Massanet or that Massanet lied in his report (or, in fact, that the Teja chief's mother lied to her own son). In fact, it is clear that Massanet was simply making a factual report to his superior. Kendrick does not assess this story on its merits; he simply dismisses it on the basis that other stories are 'pretty legends' and therefore this story must also be a 'pretty legend'. While there is no doubt that there are some pretty legends, this fact does not mean that all reports of the 'Lady in Blue' are necessarily also pretty legends.

As stated above, T. D. Kendrick ('Mary of Agreda: The Life and Legend of a Spanish Nun', Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1967) says (p. 55): 'And it was faith in Indian bombastic talk that inspired [Juan de Oñate's] expedition to Quivira in 1601, the year before Mary of Ágreda was born, and just under thirty years before the Jumanos, in answer to interrogation, readily agreed that they had been visited in their homeland by a nun wearing a habit like that in the portrait of Luisa de Carrión. All this [being instances of Indians lying to the Spaniards] means that it is not unfair to suggest that the gullibility of Father Benavides must almost have equalled that of Father Marcos of Nice, and that the tale of their nun told by the Jumanos, assuredly with the Virgin Mary in mind, was as fictitious as a tale told by the Turk [an Indian who misled Coronado with tales about 'cities of gold' in 1541].' Let me get this straight. According to Kendrick, de Benavides asks the Jumanos whether they have been visited by a 'Lady in Blue' and then gullibly accepts their response when they answer in the affirmative? So, he prompts them for a particular answer and then gullibly accepts the answer he prompted them for? Eh?

Furthermore, de Benavides 'Memorial' of 1630 states 'And so we immediately dispatched the said Father Salas, with another, his companion, who is the Father Fray Diego Lopez, whom the self-named Indians went with as guides. And before they went, we asked the Indians to tell us the reason why they were with so much concern petitioning for baptism, and for Religious to go to indoctrinate them. They replied that a woman like that one we had there painted - which was a picture of Luisa de Carrión - used to preach to each of them in their own tongue, telling them that they should come to summon the Fathers to instruct and baptize them, and that they should not be slothful about it.' (Sierra, Javier, 'The Lady in Blue', p. 338-9, quoting a translation of de Benavides 'Memorial' of 1630). In other words, the Jumanos did not 'readily agree' to a question as to whether they had been visited by a Lady in Blue', as Kendrick claims; they were asked why they wanted baptism and replied that it was because a 'Lady in Blue' told them to do so. There is a huge difference between:

Question: 'Have you been visited by a 'Lady in Blue'?'
Answer: 'Yes.'

and:

Question: 'Why are you asking to be baptized?'
Answer: 'Because a 'Lady in Blue' told us to.'

We can see that Kendrick has not only seriously distorted the evidence but that he contradicts himself in the space of one paragraph by saying that de Benavides prompted the Jumanos to lie and then gullibly accepted the lie he prompted them to tell. This is simply preposterous nonsense.

Furthermore, Kendrick says (p. 35): 'Mary, subjected to what must have been a non-stop stream of leading questions and broad hints [from de Benavides]...'. Later on (p. 55) he says: 'All this [being instances of Indians lying to the Spaniards] means that it is not unfair to suggest that the gullibility of Father Benavides must almost have equalled that of Father Marcos of Nice, and that the tale of their nun told by the Jumanos, assuredly with the Virgin Mary in mind, was as fictitious as a tale told by the Turk [an Indian who misled Coronado with tales about 'cities of gold' in 1541].' So it appears that de Benavides was both stupid and clever at the same time; gullible enough to accept a lie by the Jumanos but manipulative enough to lead Sor María to agree to his version of events. The former implies that he believed the lie and the latter implies that he didn't - so he was both gullible and manipulative and believed the lie and didn't believe it. This is sheer nonsense. It illustrates how detractors tie themselves up in knots in an effort to undermine the 'Lady in Blue' story.

Stephen W. Hackel ('Junípero Serra - California's Founding Father', Hill and Wang, New York, 2013)

Hackel states (p. 58): 'The Franciscans who left Mallorca in Serra's day took special inspiration from the writings of a Spanish nun, Maria de Jesus de Agreda. Serra was particularly taken with her assertion that she had had a revelation from the Virgin Mary and had gone a seemingly impossible number of times to the region that is now the American Southwest. She claimed to have been carried to what is now present-day New Mexico on the wings of Saint Michael and Saint Francis and to have been protected there by angels. Through divine intervention Maria de Agreda preached the Gospel in the language of the Indians. Most of the time in the New World she was dressed in a Franciscan habit. Sometimes she would make three or four trips in a single twenty-four-hour period. While no Spaniard had ever seen her in New Spain and she was said to have never left her convent - for she bilocated - her stunningly accurate descriptions of the Spaniards and Indians of New Mexico won over many skeptics and detractors. Etched in the minds of men like Serra were her statements about what she had learned during her revelations, namely that God had ordained that "the Indians, on merely seeing" the Franciscans, "would be converted." To Serra her writings were not the fantasies of a crazed nun but evidence that God favored the Franciscans in the evangelization of the New World and was aiding them in miraculous ways.'

In a note (note 73) Hackel says that the statement "the Indians, on merely seeing [the Franciscans] would be converted" came from a letter of 1631 from de Benavides to the friars of the Holy Custody of the Conversion of St. Paul, in Madrid. This letter is pretty much a copy of the letter of the same year that de Benavides wrote to the missionaries in New Mexico enclosing a copy of a letter from Sor María to the same missionaries. The letter from de Benavides to the missionaries actually says 'She said that by setting out from Quivera to the east... that our father, Saint Francis, obtained a pledge from God, our Lord, that the Indians would become converted merely at the sight of our friars.' This seems to me to refer to a specific tribe or tribes of Indians living to the east of Quivera, not to Indian tribes generally. Furthermore, Sor María, in her letter (quoted above) said 'The first ones where I went are toward the east, I believe, and one must travel in that direction to reach them from the kingdom of Quivira. I call these kingdoms with reference to our way of speaking, Titlas, Chillescas, and Caburcos, which have not been discovered. To reach them it seems to me that one will meet with great obstacles on account of the many kingdoms which intervene, inhabited by very warlike people who will not allow the passing through their territory of the Christian Indians from New Mexico, whom they distrust. Especially they distrust the friars of our holy father, Saint Francis, because the Devil has deceived them, making them believe that the antidote is the poison, and that they will become vassals and slaves if they become Christians, when the opposite is true, since it constitutes their liberty and happiness in this world.' In other words, to get to the Indians who were susceptible to conversion it would be necessary to cross an area inhabited by Indians hostile to Christianity. Evidently, not all Indians would convert on sight, only those she specifically identified. This would have been obvious to anyone reading both de Benavides letter to the missionaries of New Mexico and Sor María's letter to the same missionaries, including Serra. In fact, of course, Sor María made it clear that the task of bringing souls to God would be difficult and dangerous (see her letter above).

Extract from a letter of 1631 from de Benavides to the friars of the Holy Custody of the Conversion of St. Paul, in Madrid (see p. 331).

Hackel further states (p. 242):'Father Junipero Serra, no matter how emblematic he was, though, was also replete with tensions and ironies, even paradoxes. He stated that he was always obedient to his superiors, but as he grew in stature and seniority, he did largely as he pleased, with few checks on his own authority and actions beyond the narrow confines of his own order and mission. He believed in the nearly absolute powers of the Church yet lived at a time when the Bourbon state was consolidating its authority over that institution. He had a domineering personality but was bereft of an individual self: he was opinionated, strong-willed, determined, and passionately devoted to his life's work but was typical of his age in that he had no real identity of his own beyond his order. As a deeply religious Catholic of the eighteenth century, he fervently distrusted his own intuition or inner voice, and he chose to follow his God's will as best he could discern it. Finally, and paradoxically, Serra lived a life in opposition to what California would become: a dynamic region defined by its diversity and integration into a global economy that transcended national boundaries. Serra's mission was to secure souls for the Church and territory for the Crown. To him, those who practiced faiths other than Catholicism were pitiful people, to be converted or removed. There is thus a growing incongruity between the historical Serra - who devoted himself to the universalism of Catholicism, the suppression of individualism, and the renunciation of materialism and the modern place to which his legacy is now bound: a state that in the American popular imagination has come to represent idiosyncratic individualism and the glorification of physical beauty; conspicuous consumption; racial, ethnic, and religious diversity; and technological progress. Serra, California's founding father, therefore, stands as an awkward symbol of California today. But perhaps for that very reason, he is a more potent reminder than ever of the firm beliefs, intense faith, and multifaceted lives of many of the men who were at the center of the successive upheavals that inescapably characterized, and followed, colonial enterprises across North America and elsewhere during the era of European expansion.'

This refers to Serra, but it must also encompass the woman who inspired him, who must also presumably stand in contrast (by implication, bad contrast) to the values exemplified by modern California; individualism, the glorification of physical beauty, racial, ethnic and religious diversity and technological progress. Let's look at these.

Modern California Serra, Sor María and the Franciscans
Individualism (i.e. 'Me! Me! Me!') They sought to bring each person to love of God through love of their fellow men; that is, bring them the Christian message. So, love of others rather than love of self.
Glorification of physical beauty (i.e. more 'Me! Me! Me!') They sought to beautify men's souls (see above). Suntan lotion for the soul.
Conspicuous consumption (i.e. more 'Me! Me! Me!') No need to respond to this.
Racial, ethnic, and religious diversity (i.e. 'I'll do what I like' or, in effect, 'Me! Me! Me!') They believed that all men were equal before God but not that all men were morally equal regardless of the way they lived their lives (moral relativity or 'Do whatever you feel like').
Technological progress (i.e. 'Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!' or 'Me! Me! Me!') They tried to educate the Indians and instruct them in European crafts and farming methods so that they would be able to manage on their own once the mission land was handed back to them (but 'modern California' nicked the land).

Feed the pig until it pops!

In other words, Serra and Sor María are a symbol of what 'modern California' should try to become - once it has realized that suntan lotion doesn't make you a better person. Perhaps the old flying nun wasn't that crazy after all.

Catholic Encyclopedia ('Maria de Agreda')

The Catholic Encyclopedia deals only with 'The Mystical City of God', it entirely ignores Sor María's bilocations, her influence on the missionary effort in the American South-West, her other miracles and her relationship with Philip IV (merely mentioning that letters between them have been published). With regard to 'The Mystical City of God' a very negative and, in parts, sarcastic picture is painted; even the title of the book is not immune from negative comment ('Its lengthy title contains no less than ninety words.'). The book is damned with faint praise while no opportunity is lost to criticize. An example is 'The style, in the opinion of certain critics, is elegant, and the narrative compact. Görres, on the other hand, while expressing his admiration for the wonderful depth of its speculations, finds that the style is in the bad taste of the period, pompous and strained, and very wearisome in the prolixity of the moral applications appended to each chapter.' Also 'The book did not attract much attention outside of Spain...'. Also 'Bossuet denounced it as "an impious impertinence, and a trick of the devil." He objected to its title, The Divine Life, to its apocryphal stories, its indecent language, and its exaggerated Scotist philosophy. However, although this appreciation is found in Bossuet's works (Œuvres, Versailles, 1817, XXX, pp. 637-640, and XL, pp. 172 and 204-207), it is of questionable authenticity.', which means that criticism is included even when the authorship of it is dubious. With regard to the treatment of the book by the Church authorities and others, again, the negative elements are brought to the fore and the positive either minimized or deliberately ignored; there is no mention of the formal approval of the book by four Popes for instance. More serious are the errors of fact that have been allowed to persist in the article in spite of the fact that they are known to be wrong; for example, the idea that the removal of the book from the Index of Forbidden Books in 1681 was for Spain only ('In the congregation held Sept. 19th, 1713, at which were present their Eminences Cardinals Acciaioli, Spada, Fabroni, and Ottoboni, it was resolved that the letter of the Inquisitor of Ceneda should be withdrawn, and that the suspensive decree [of 1681] has the power of law throughout the universal Church.'). In conclusion, the article states 'The Mística ciudad has been translated into several languages; and there are several editions of the correspondence with Philip IV; but the other writings are still in manuscript, either in the convent of Agreda, or in the Franciscan monastery of Quaracchi in Italy.' The fact of the matter is that the book has never been out of print in the 340 years since its publication, has been republished over 250 times and has been read by millions of the faithful. While ridiculing the book, the article entirely ignores the fact that two of the majors doctrines Sor María propounded (the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility) have since been declared dogma by the Church.

Sor (Sister) María - Is it true?

I believe that Sor Maria told the truth and I believe that the Jumanos and Father Alonso de Benavides also told the truth in all the essentials. I don't know what actually happened to Sor Maria any more than she did but I am sure that there was some sort of physical presence (a 'person' of her appearance) in the American South-West and that Sor Maria remembered being that physical presence. For what it is worth, I happened, while writing this paper, to find what I personally believe points towards the answer; you will have to decide for yourself. In short, I read a book which I had actually bought a few months earlier for someone else (the subject didn't interest me much but the book had been well-reviewed) but which they hadn't wanted and had left behind. The book was Dr. Eben Alexander's 'Proof of Heaven', which describes his 'out of body' experiences in 2008 while in a coma with bacterial meningitis. Before I read this book I didn't believe in out of body experiences - but now I do. What convinced me was (1) that he is a 'no-nonsense' sceptical neuro-surgeon who was clearly telling the truth, (2) that what he says makes sense (even scientifically) and (3) that after he came out of the coma he was given a photograph of a sister who had died many years before, who he had never met or seen or seen any picture of (he was adopted) but he recognized this woman as the angel (there is no other word for it) who had accompanied him on his 'out of body' journeys. Towards the end of his book Dr. Alexander discusses possible explanations for what happened to him. You will have to read what he says (see chapter 33) but I believe not only that he explains what happened to Sor Maria but that it is clear that everyone has the capacity to do what she did - in the right circumstances. You weren't expecting that were you? The key word is quite simple in my view; it is 'love'. Sor Maria's love didn't 'move mountains', as in the well-known expression, but it did carry her half-way round the world.

You could also try 'Heaven is for Real'.

'God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.' (1 John 4:16)

I know very little about the current state of science in this area, though Dr. Alexander does provide a brief summary. In this context it is worth quoting Mary Desaulniers' 'The Art of Teleportation and Bilocation'' in which she says: 'According to MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] physicist, Claude Swanson, these capabilities for bilocation, dematerialization and teleportation were not considered extraordinary in ancient Indian culture. They were seen as part of the natural development of yogic disciplines. The discovery of the “biophoton,” a coherent, laser-like light stored and emitted by all living cells suggests that large scale, quantum states of coherent photons can produce resonant, collective, wave effects like telepathy and teleportation. Swanson indicates that the human body can be seen as a “quantum system, with a set of quantum states all vibrating in step.” In fact, the human body can function as a coherent oscillating system in which each electron becomes synchronized with others behaving “in phase” and reinforcing one another. When the human body generates a store of coherent energy which takes up a spatial pattern, it increases the probability of such a structure or pattern appearing in real life. It is this power of coherence or synchronization that makes possible exceptional human functioning events like teleportation and bilocation. (Claude Swanson Ph.D. The Synchronized Universe: New Science of the Paranormal, Tucson, AZ: Poseidia Press, 2003).' It would be unwise to dismiss the phenomenon of bilocation out of hand - when it looks as though science might just be catching up with religion.

'One of the most distinguished scientists in China is Dr. Qian Xuesen (Tsien Hsue-Shen), famous in both the U.S. and China. He is the founder of the modern Chinese aerospace and rocket program, Chairman of the Chinese Association of Science and Technology, and author of a standard textbook, ‘Engineering Cybernetics’. He is listed in Wikipedia as one of the founders of the jet propulsion laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and was former Goddard Professor there. In 2008 he was named Person of the Year by the American magazine ‘Aviation Week and Space Technology.’ - “These experimental results (by Dr. Yan Xin and his coworkers) are a first in the world. They unequivocally demonstrate that without touching substances, the human body can affect them and change their molecular structures and properties…They are new scientific discoveries and the prelude to a scientific revolution.”' (http://www.synchronizeduniverse.com/index.html). St. Teresa of Avila said 'It is love alone that gives worth to all things.' So, that's all there is to it; 'God is love'. Do you want to know how Sor Maria did it? Then read 'The Mystical City of God'. It's not a 'How to' manual but it does show the depth of a love that can achieve miracles.

'Star Trek-style "beaming up" of people through space could become a reality in the far future, the leader of a landmark teleportation experiment has said. Nothing in the laws of physics fundamentally forbids the teleportation of large objects, including humans, Ronald Hanson pointed out. "What we are teleporting is the state of a particle," said Professor Hanson, of Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. "If you believe we are nothing more than a collection of atoms strung together in a particular way; then in principle it should be possible to teleport ourselves from one place to another. In practice it's extremely unlikely, but to say it can never work is very dangerous." Professor Hanson's team showed for the first time that it was possible to teleport information encoded into sub-atomic particles between two points three metres apart with 100 per cent reliability. Teleportation exploits the way "entangled" particles acquire a merged identity, with the state of one instantly influencing the other no matter how far apart they are. Albert Einstein dismissed entanglement, calling it "spooky action at a distance", but scientists have repeatedly demonstrated that it is a real phenomenon. The research is published in the latest online edition of the journal Science*. A more ambitious experiment, involving the teleportafion of information between buildings on the university campus 1,300 metres apart, is planned in July.' ('Beaming up people could be possible', The Times, 30 May 2014)

*W. Pfaff, B. Hensen, H. Bernien, S. B. van Dam, M. S. Blok, T. H. Taminiau, M. J. Tiggelman, R. N. Schouten, M. Markham, D. J. Twitchen, R. Hanson, 'Unconditional quantum teleportation between distant solid-state quantum bits', Science, 29 May 2014.

I am not sure what the implications of such scientific developments are for religion in general or Christianity in particular. The central messages of Christianity are (1) that God is love and (2) that one can only come to God through Christ the Redeemer. In essence, and forgive me but I am not a theologian, I think this means that one can only come to God through love of your fellow men - 'If anyone says, "I love God", and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.' (1 John 4:20). The point is that God so loved the world that he sent his Only Begotten Son to die on the cross for our sins. Thus Jesus died for love of mankind. To be redeemed we must imitate Christ in his love for mankind, even to the point of dying for mankind, if necessary. 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.' (John 15:13). This is why love of God means love of mankind.

To me, what Sor Maria did was to prove the power of love and therefore the validity of the Christian message. You see, Jesus, the Apostles, the Saints and the Church teach us about the power of love but what Sor Maria did was to prove it; she proves that what they said is true more than anyone else since the time of the Apostles*. That is why her experiences are so important; she shows not just that so-called 'near-death experiences' are real but that you don't have to be near death to experience them. God is in everything; everything is in God; everything is God; you must therefore love everything - your fellow men, the birds, the bees, the flowers and, as St. Francis said, Brother Sun and Sister Moon. All you need is love. St. Francis of Assisi knew this.

'According to the synoptic gospels, Christ generalised the law into two underlying principles; The first is 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' While the second is 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'[Matthew 22:34-40][Mark 12:28-33]. These are quotes from Deuteronomy 6:4 and Leviticus 19:18. Barnes' Notes on the New Testament comments on these verses saying: "These comprehend the substance of what Moses in the law, and what the prophets have spoken. What they have said has been to endeavour to win men to the love of God and each other. Love to God and man comprehends the whole [of] religion; and to produce this has been the design of Moses, the prophets, the Saviour, and the apostles."' (Wikipedia, 'Christianity')

*'The miracle of bilocation related of her is in fact more remarkable and lasted a longer time than that recorded anywhere in the lives of the saints. Her good sense, her truthfulness, her sincerity, her humility, her unselfish love of God and man eminently adapted her for the communication of messages from God to men.' - The 'Special Notice to the Reader' in the first (1912) English edition of 'The Mystical City of God'.

But wait! If bilocation can be scientifically explained then it is not a miracle. And if it is not a miracle then it cannot be used to prove the existence of God (according to scientists who seem to believe that explaining how something happened obviates the need to explain why that thing happened). Wrong. We might know how bilocation works (that is, by 'entanglement') but the key point is what caused bilocation to happen in these cases (Sor Maria and Padre Pio). The answer is, of course, love of God. It is the fact that love of God gave Sor Maria and Padre Pio the power to bilocate that is the miracle.

St. Francis of Assisi - Sermon to the Birds.

'My little sisters, the birds, much bounden are ye unto God, your Creator, and always in every place ought ye to praise Him, for that He hath given you liberty to fly about everywhere, and hath also given you double and triple rainment; moreover He preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, that your race might not perish out of the world; still more are ye beholden to Him for the element of the air which He hath appointed for you; beyond all this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you, and giveth you the streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and valleys for your refuge and the high trees whereon to make your nests; and because ye know not how to spin or sow, God clotheth you, you and your children; wherefore your Creator loveth you much, seeing that He hath bestowed on you so many benefits; and therefore, my little sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praises unto God.' - Saint Francis of Assisi - c1220

Sor (Sister) María - Who is working on her behalf today?

Today, efforts to take Sor Maria's beatification process forward are concentrated, as one might expect, in Spain and the USA. In Spain it is the Bishop of Soria (the Bishopric in which Ágreda lies) (see here for some recent news, including about a film of Sor Maria's life) and the Spanish Mariology Society who are the principal workers in her cause. In the USA it is The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), whose founder, Father James Flanagan, was inspired by 'The Mystical City of God', and The Knights of Columbus (Solanus Casey Chapter #11276 of Fort Wayne, Indiana), under whose aegis was formed The American Council for the Mystical City of God. In 2013 the Knights of Columbus had 1.8 million members. Father James Flanagan was inspired by (the now Venerable) Father Solanus Casey (1870-1957) who read 'The Mystical City of God' on his knees every day for fifty years. It would have seemed odd to him, I think, that he should now be a candidate for beatification while the author of the book that inspired him most (other than the Bible of course) is not (to all intents and purposes). There is also a group called the Working Group for the Beatification of Sister Maria de Jesus de Agreda (see here and here).

See here and here for further information.

Venerable Father Solanus Casey (1870-1957).

Sor (Sister) María - A new 'Da Vinci Code'

Sor María was the subject of a 'Da Vinci Code'-style novel, 'The Lady in Blue', by the leading Spanish novelist and New York Times Best-Seller List author, Javier Sierra, which won the 2008 International Latino Book Award for the best English-edition historical novel (see here also). In this novel the Coronel family are portrayed (p. 307-8) as hereditary angels of the lineage of Jesus (that is, the House of David) - but the author cannot have been aware that María de Ágreda actually was descended from the House of David, and not just a descendant but a close relative of the last-known Exilarch of the Jews (King of Judah in exile), being of the family of the Exilarch, Don Abraham Senior (Fernan Perez Coronel).

Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921), 'Winged Figure' (1889).

'And to the woman [Israel] were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.' - Revelation 12:1

William Baxter Closson, 'The Angel' (1912)

Sor (Sister) María - A shadow in the dunes

Original cover of 'Dune'. St. Alia of the Knife, sister of 'Muad'Dib'.

Interestingly, the Frank Herbert best-seller 'Dune', the best-selling science-fiction book of all time, considered to be the best science-fiction book of all time, is built around certain elements that echo Sor María and her story. The hero of the book, Paul Atreides, or 'Muad'Dib' ('The Mouse'), is a Messiah figure, being called the 'Kwisatz Haderach' or 'the one who can be in many places at once'; that is, the one who can 'bridge space and time'. His mother, the stately and beautiful Lady Jessica, is a 'Bene Gesserit', which means 'she who bears herself well', or perhaps 'the high-born', who becomes a 'Reverend Mother' of the Bene Gesserit with the power to see into the past and future. Of course, Sor María was of the Davidic blood-line and a Mother Superior or Reverend Mother of the Order of the Immaculate Conception ('the highest born') who, as we have seen above, had the ability to be in more than one place at once, as well as the gift of prophecy. Interestingly, Sor María appeared to the Tohono O’odham tribe ('The People of the Desert') of the Sonoran Desert (Arizona), one of the harshest deserts in the world, as described above, and foretold the future coming of the white man. This tribe were a peaceful people but were also great warriors who defeated the renowned and feared Apache. Sor María led this tribe to victory in the Battle of Caborca in 1857. The success of 'Dune' demostrates the powerful attraction of ideas of Messiah-ship, holy and royal blood-lines, destiny, foresight and prophecy, supernatural powers, invincibility in battle and so on.

Sor María - The Lord of the Rings

The cover of the original paperback edition of 'The Lord of the Rings'

Tolkien said that "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism." The Ring represents not evil but power, absolute power - and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is why the ring cannot be worn by any person because, in the end, it will corrupt him absolutely. Aragorn is the Messiah and 'The Return of the King' and the begining of the Fourth Age is the return of the Messiah. There are many parallels between the Messiah and Aragorn; his descent from the most highly-exalted royal line (equating to the House of David), the restoration of a royal line, the fact that he had the power to heal ('the hands of the King are the hands of a healer') and so on.

The parallel between Sor Maria and The Lord of the Rings can be found in the references to Glorfindel, an elf-lord. 'Glorfindel was tall and straight; his hair was of shining gold, his face fair and young and fearless and full of joy; his eyes were bright and keen, and his voice like music; on his brow sat wisdom, and in his hand was strength.'

Glorfindel as portrayed in the film My grandfather, Oliver Nassau Senior (Oxford 1921-1924)

Glorfindel

In the chapter 'Many Meetings' Frodo says to Gandalf: 'What about Rivendell and the Elves? Is Rivendell safe? [Gandalf replies] Yes, at present, until all else is conquered. The Elves may fear the Dark Lord, and they may fly before him, but never again will they listen to him or serve him. And here in Rivendell there live still some of his chief foes: the Elven-wise, lords of the Eldar from beyond the furthest seas.They do not fear the Ringwraiths, for those who have dwelt in the Blessed Realm live at once in both worlds, and against both the Seen and the Unseen they have great power. [Frodo] I thought I saw a white figure that shone and did not grow dim like the others. Was that Glorfindel then? [Gandalf] Yes, you saw him for a moment as he is on the other side; one of the mighty of the Firstborn. He is an Elf-lord of a house of princes. Indeed, there is a power in Rivendell to withstand the might of Mordor, for a while: and elsewhere other powers still dwell.'

'Living in both worlds' is, of course, bilocation; the power to be in two places at once. It would seem then that elves (or at least high-elves) are essentially angels.

Interestingly, my mother's parents lived opposite Tolkien in Northmoor Road, Oxford, where he wrote The Lord of the Rings. He lived at number 20 and my grandparents lived at number 24 (from 1946 to 1955). 'The Lord of the Rings' was published in 1954-55. In 1955 my grandparents moved to Poole and Tolkein moved to Poole ('Woodridings', 19 Lakeside Rd) in 1968. They lived about a mile apart there.

An Elf-lord of a house of princes.

Sor María - Her significance in the Roman Catholic Church

Sor María is one of the two major figures, after St. Francis of Assisi, in the theology of the Franciscans, who place great emphasis on the Immaculate Conception; the other is Duns Scotus, who was one of the greatest theologians of all time. Both were, of course, Franciscans. The Catholic Encyclopedia says under 'Immaculate Conception': 'The famous Duns Scotus (d. 1308) at last (in III Sent., dist. iii, in both commentaries) laid the foundations of the true doctrine so solidly and dispelled the objections in a manner so satisfactory, that from that time onward the doctrine prevailed. He showed that the sanctification after animation - sanctificatio post animationem - demanded that it should follow in the order of nature (naturae) not of time (temporis); he removed the great difficulty of St. Thomas showing that, so far from being excluded from redemption, the Blessed Virgin obtained of her Divine Son the greatest of redemptions through the mystery of her preservation from all sin. He also brought forward, by way of illustration, the somewhat dangerous and doubtful argument of Eadmer (S. Anselm) "decuit, potuit, ergo fecit. ['It was right to do it, God had the power to do it, therefore he did it.']"'. Following Duns Scotus it was 'The Mystical City of God' that probably generated more heated debate over the issue of the Immaculate Conception than anything else, provoking riots in some cities. Certainly, I can think of no work that was so controversial in this regard. I think it is fair to say that 'The Mystical City of God' became the banner of the Immaculists and the chief target of their opponents, such as the Sorbonne, and that is why there was such a pattern of condemnation followed by commendation of the book. Spain has always been the champion of Marianism and 'The Mystical City of God' , with over 100 editions printed in Spain, did much to strengthen, encourage and perpetuate Marianism in that country.

Some theologians put Sor María ahead of Duns Scotus. Padre Andrew Mendo, of the Society of Jesus and the University of Salamanca, wrote 'I think it can truly be said that venerable María de Jesús de Ágreda surpasses all... other members of this order [the Franciscans]' (Fedewa, p. 252).

'Duns Scotus's Oxford' by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Towery city and branchy between towers;
Cuckoo-echoing, bell-swarmèd, lark charmèd, rook racked, river-rounded;
The dapple-eared lily below thee; that country and town did
Once encounter in, here coped & poisèd powers;

Thou hast a base and brickish skirt there, sours
That neighbour-nature thy grey beauty is grounded
Best in; graceless growth, thou hast confounded
Rural, rural keeping — folk, flocks, and flowers.

Yet ah! this air I gather and I release
He lived on; these weeds and waters, these walls are what
He haunted who of all men most sways my spirits to peace;

Of realty the rarest-veinèd unraveller; a not
Rivalled insight, be rival Italy or Greece;
Who fired France for Mary without spot.

María de Jesús de Ágreda and Duns Scotus.

'La Mística Ciudad de Dios' by Cristóbal de Villalpando - St. John the Divine with the Book of Revelation and María de Jesús de Ágreda with 'The Mystical City of God'. It was St. John the Divine who first described the Virgin Mary as 'The City of God'.

Revelation 21:1 (King James Version):

'And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.'

Church of the Immaculate Conception, Landa de Matamoros, Mexico - showing Duns Scotus on the left and María de Jesús de Ágreda on the right

Church of the Immaculate Conception, Landa de Matamoros, Mexico - detail showing María de Jesús de Ágreda

Church of the Immaculate Conception, Ozumba, Mexico - part of a mural showing St. Francis of Assisi between Duns Scotus and María de Jesús de Ágreda. The three spheres traditionally represent the three orders of the Franciscans; the Friars Minor, the Poor Clares and the Third Order (the laity).

Famous nuns of the Order of the Immaculate Conception, which was founded in 1484 by Saint Beatrice de Silva (1424-1492), in the centre. Sor María is on the right-hand side, second from the bottom.

Sor (Sister) María's significance in the history of the USA

Because the work of the Franciscan missions in making the native Indian population self-supporting was brought to a premature end by the annexation of Texas in 1845 and the conquest of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 (which was followed by the decimation of the native Indian population and the seizure of almost all their ancestral tribal lands) their work must be judged a failure. Nonetheless, the cultural, linguistic and religious legacy of Spain and the Roman Catholic Church survived, so much so that in a 1972 paper ('The Texians and the Texans - The Spanish Texans') the Institute of Texan Culture of the University of Texas at San Antonio was able to write: 'Although the immigration figures [since 1900] are not large, time has greatly magnified the Spanish influence summarized by historian Herbert E. Bolton. "Fifty million people in America," he said in 1911, "are tinged with Spanish blood, still speak the Spanish language, still worship at the altar set up by the Catholic kings, still live under laws essentially Spanish, and still possess a culture largely inherited from Spain." What more fitting tribute can be paid a people?' Today, just over 100 years later, Spanish is the second most widely-spoken language in the United States and Roman Catholicism is the single largest religious denomination at 22% to 24% of the population (2012), though smaller than the Protestant denominations taken together. What more fitting tribute could be paid to María de Jesús de Ágreda and her fellow religious? See also 'As Hispanics approach majority in U.S. church, needs for ministry loom', Patricia Zapor, Catholic News Service, 6 May 2014.

But how significant is Sor María in historical terms? How does she compare to the great figures of US history such as Abraham Lincoln (US President, who saved the Union and freed the slaves), George Washington (US President, a Founding Father of the United States and drafter of the Constitution), Thomas Jefferson (US President, a Founding Father and drafter of the Declaration of Independence), Franklin Delano Roosevelt (US President, author of the 'New Deal', who led the US through World War II) and so on? As a key propagator of the Christianity-based (if not always actually Christian) morality which drove the actions of these great men and which created the moral and religious climate in America which allowed them to achieve what they did achieve, she must be counted amongst the most influential people in US history. However, the true measure of her greatness was her clear belief that the native Indian people were just as much God's creatures as anyone else and should be treated as such. Belief in the equality of all men before God was a standard which even the greatest of US Presidents did not always live up to, for all the emphasis they placed (or appeared to place) on the inalienable rights of the individual. The guiding light of Sor María's morality never flickered, never faltered in this matter (the equality of all men before God); theirs did (particularly with regard to the native Indians) and they must be judged against her accordingly. These great men are considered to be great because they are judged to have forged onwards along the path towards equality and justice, however falteringly - but it was Sor María and her fellow religious who went before them and lit their way. In the great war for America's future that is now under way, only morality solidly founded on religious belief will be strong enough to overcome the forces ranged against her (ambition, greed, lust, contempt for the rule of law, moral relativity, lack of respect for human life and lack of belief), but 'Our Lady of Conquering Love' will triumph in the end.

Sor (Sister) María's significance in the history of Spain

In 1995 the Spanish TV station, RTVE, broadcast a series of one-hour documentaries on nine women of great relevance to Spanish history who deserved to be better known - 'Mujeres en la Historia' ('Women in History'); five of these women were Queens. With regard to Spanish women who are already famous and sufficiently well-known (although, interestingly, Sor María is not included in the linked list of famous Spanish people), I can only think of Isabella the Catholic and St. Teresa of Avila, which, I would guess, means that Sor María is amongst the five most deserving non-royal women in Spanish history; that is, St. Teresa of Avila plus the four out of nine women in the series who were non-royal. So here is the list of the 'Famous Five' (in date of birth order):

Maria de Pacheco (c1496-1531), Comunero, successfully led the defence of the city of Toledo against royal forces in 1521
St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), nun
Maria de Zayas y Sotomayor (1590-1661), writer, pioneer of modern literary feminism
Maria Jesús de Agreda (1602-1665), nun
Concepción Arenal (1820-1893), feminist writer and activist, first woman to attend university in Spain, a pioneer and founder of the feminist movement in Spain

In any event, Sor María is clearly amongst the top ten women in Spanish history, which is not bad for a largely uneducated nun who never left her convent.

First series (1995) in date of birth order:

Eleanor Plantagenet (1162-1214), Queen Consort of Castile
Maria de Molina (c1265-1321), Queen Consort of Castile and León
Juana la Beltraneja (1462-1530), claimant to the throne of Castile, Queen of Portugal
Maria de Pacheco (c1496-1531), Comunero, successfully led the defence of the city of Toledo against royal forces in 1521
Joan of Austria (1535-1573), Regent of Spain
Maria de Zayas y Sotomayor (1590-1661), writer, pioneer of modern literary feminism
Maria Jesús de Agreda (1602-1665), nun
Isabel de Farnesio (1692-1766), Queen consort of Spain
Concepción Arenal (1820-1893), feminist writer and activist, first woman to attend university in Spain, a pioneer and founder of the feminist movement in Spain

Second series (1998):

Leonor Lopez de Córdoba (c1362-1420), writer
Beatriz Galindo (c1465-1534), physician and educator
Isabel Roser, a sixteenth-century Catalonian noble woman of Barcelona who helped Ignatius of Loyola
Ana Mendoza de la Cerda (1540-1592), Princess of Eboli
María Josefa Alfonso Pimentel (Condesa Duquesa de Benavente) (1750-1834), patron of the painter Goya as well as other artists, writers and scientists; María Francisca de Sales Portocarrero (Condesa de Montijo) (1754-1808), writer, reformer, feminist; Josefa Amar y Borbón (1749-1833), writer
Teresa Cabarrus (1773-1835), member of the 'Merveilleuses'
Blessed Maria Rafols (1781-1853), formed an apostolic association dedicated to serving the most helpless - the sick, the mentally ill, abandoned children and all types of disabled people; Michele and Teresa Desmaisieres Gallifa
Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1814-1873), writer; Carolina Coronado (1823-1911), writer; Robustiana Armiño (1821-1890), poetess
Rosario Acuña (1850-1923), writer
Maria de la O Lejárraga García (1874-1974), feminist writer

Third series (2003):

Ana de Austria (1549-1580), Queen of Spain
Rosalía de Castro (1837-1885), author and poet (poet laureate of Galicia)
Maria Cristina de Habsburgo-Lorena (1858-1929), Queen Consort of Spain
Carmen de Burgos 'Colombine' (1867-1932), journalist, women's rights activist
Clara Campoamor (1888-1972), politician and feminist

Fourth series (2004) - on three famous queens:

Isabel la Católica (1451-1504), Queen of Castile
Juana I 'the Mad' de Castilla (1479-1555), Queen of Castile
Isabel II (1830-1904), Queen Regnant of Spain

Fifth series (2009) - further famous women:

Catalina de Lancaster (1373-1418), Queen of Castile
Luisa Ignacia Roldán 'La Roldana' (1652-1706), sculptor
Maria Felicia García Malibran (1808-1836), opera singer
Emilia Pardo Bazán (1851-1921), writer
Victoria Eugenia de Battenberg (1887-1969), Queen Consort of Spain

Statue of María de Jesús de Ágreda outside the Provincial Government building, Calle Caballeros, Soria, Spain. The quill pen refers to her authorship of 'The Mystical City of God'.

A postcard showing the statue of María de Jesús de Ágreda outside the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception in Ágreda, Soria, Spain, together with a Spanish stamp showing the same statue.

Sor (Sister) María's significance in the history of the world

With regard to the past, I have already described the part Sor María played in the evangelizing of New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and California, in the preservation of the native Indian way of life and the protection of their homelands and in the growth of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. I have also assessed her place in Spanish history and (in a limited way) in the history of the theology of the Roman Catholic Church, including the part she played in the eventual acceptance of the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Papal Infallibility. In the Protestant world she was, of course, by virtue of her Marianism, either ignored completely or a target for ridicule and condemnation. I think her significance is indicated by the fact that a statue of one of her followers, a man she inspired through her writings, Junípero Serra, founder of California, is one of only 100 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the US Capitol and represents the most-populous US state - California. By any standard she was a significant figure at a national and international level, if clearly not in the first rank. But of the people in the 'first rank', such as, say, Napoleon or Alexander the Great, we must ask whether a person becomes truly great by virtue merely of conquering a vast empire which subsequently vanishes into dust. Does one measure greatness by piles of skulls? Clearly, the truly great people in world history are those whose ideas or teachings have influenced the way in which later generations led their lives and made progress towards a 'better world'. By such a standard Sor María was not of the first rank as an originator of ideas but she was in the second rank as one who inspired others by her example, her writings and her miraculous works.

With regard to the future, I think that Sor María could potentially play a much larger part than she has in the past. In my view there are two related matters. Firstly, we are in a period of huge moral uncertainty, of disbelief, of enmity towards the Church, or moral relativity, of corruption in public life, of the collapse of traditional values and ways of life and so on. It is not too much to call this a crisis of civilization. Secondly, we are seeing huge leaps forward in scientific discovery and, in particular, we seem to be on the verge of discovering aspects of our universe (or rather 'environment') in which non-religious people have doggedly refused to believe, even if there has been a long history of phenomena which point to the existence of such things. I refer to 'things miraculous' like heaven and bilocation. Sor María's bilocations are quite literally 'unparalled in the entire history of the world' and, if proven to have happened by proper legal standards, could, firstly, provide a goal for science in terms of identifying what is possible and, secondly, provide a means of convincing unbelievers of the reality of God, heaven and the power of love - in short 'Proof of Heaven'. Dr. Eben Alexander, in his 'Proof of Heaven', refers to the work of Robert Monroe and 'Hemi-Sync' sound waves (p. 158) and says 'I believe Hemi-Sync has enabled me to return to a realm very similar to that which I visited in a deep coma'; Javier Seirra also refers to this in his book 'Lady in Blue' (I thought that he was stretching it a bit when he got into this area); T. D. Kendrick, in his 'Mary of Agreda: The Life and Legend of a Spanish Nun' (Routledge & Kegan Paul, London, 1967) says (p. 15) that Sor María's trances sometimes occurred 'after listening to sacred music' but, in my view, it is love that is at the centre of what Sor María did, not music. All that science is likely to prove, therefore, is that to get to heaven we must learn to love one another and, in doing so, to love God. They could have found this out more quickly by reading the Bible but there you go.

'For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance. He is about to conquer the highest peak. As he pulls himself over the final rock he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.' - Robert Jastrow (1925-2008), astronomer, 'God and the Astronomers', p. 116.

Heaven is where God is. God is love. Therefore wherever love is there also is heaven. To put it another way: “What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.” (Father Zossima in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Brothers Karamazov’, Chapter 41).

'If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, you must not seek to show that no crows are; it is enough if you can prove one single crow be white.' - William James (1842-1910), philosopher and psychologist. This is where Sor María comes in.

You see, people say that near-death experiences prove that heaven exists and that there is life after death. The problem is that such experiences are pretty much impossible to prove (so far). The only potential way to do so is to acquire some knowledge that you cannot possibly have known otherwise, such as seeing a sister that you did not know ever existed (as in 'Heaven is for Real') but even here, people just say 'Oh, someone must have told you about that.' And so we are back to square one. But Sor María proves not just that there is a heaven but that heaven and earth are the same place and not just that they are the same place but that it is possible to move between them without dying; that is, at will. She also proves what it is that allows us to do that; which is love. In short, Sor María bridges the gap between science and religion by solving the greatest mystery of them all.

As Beulah Mullen Karney states in her book 'Mary of Agreda' (Chapter XII):

'It is altogether possible that Mary Agreda will, in the coming age, be as well known as she was in her own time, but not because she performed miracles, rather for what can be learned from her concerning the human personality and its extrasensory capacity for extending its awareness multi-dimensionally so as to embrace and experience the total universe as including psychic and spiritual as well as physical dimensions. When that time arrives the world will be better able to appreciate her Native American "conquest of love" as one of the most noteworthy achievements of our American Colonial period. Whatever historic importance may be given her teleportations from Spain to America, the significance for the twenty-first century is that she actually extended her personality into another age and culture, overcoming the barriers of time, space, and communication, and did it through the soul's implementation of love rather than through physical force or chemical and mechanical aide.

The tendency of the past two centuries, however, has been to reject the nun's somewhat bizarre means of travel since it was unexplainable according to the perception of the scientific thinking that has dominated these times. In the years ahead, however, this may no longer be true. There is as lively interest today in both psychic phenomena and mysticism, in all its varieties, as there was in Agreda's more spiritually-oriented century. Certainly the story of Mary Agreda presents the challenge that it be investigated with an open mind. Who knows what conclusion may be drawn when all the evidence is in?

From the iron age to the nuclear age, human beings have depended on their creative inventions to extend their human limitations. Now, however, interest is shifting to the total human personality - to inner as well as outer capabilities. And with this the perception of what is humanly possible is changing also. During the past hundred years science has been striving to attain more power, luxury, and leisure, but this has led to a sense of anxiety rather than fulfillment. What is coming to light is the soul’s need to be related to what is ultimately real - the infinite and the eternal. Only then is life experienced as having meaning and purpose. When Mary Agreda, as the Lady in Blue, ministered to the Native Americans throughout the 1620’s she discovered the secret that would be her legacy, that

The way to do is to be.'

And finally, the words of Padre Pio:

"You must always humble yourself lovingly before God and before men, because God speaks only to those who are truly humble and He enriches them with His gifts."

"Humility and purity are the wings which carry us to God and make us almost divine."

Here are a couple of questions:

  • If God is all-powerful and wants us to love him then why doesn't he just appear and prove his existence?
  • If God is all-powerful and loves us then why are people killed in earthquakes?

We can answer both these questions in one go - and the answer lies in free will. You see, God, being all-powerful, could have created us perfect and happy and immortal - but he didn't. For some reason, which we cannot possibly know, God wants us to perfect ourselves; this part we have to take on trust - that there is a process and a purpose to that process ('God is working his purpose out'). This is not too much to accept because we can see progress or the possibility of it through our choices. You could kick the cat but you choose not to because the cat wouldn't like it - that sort of thing. To perfect ourselves we must have free will; the ability to choose between good and evil. But choice implies the existence of good and evil; that is opposites. A rock lives for ever (pretty much); it knows no pain but, at the same time, it knows no happiness. What a life - or rather non-life. So life (that is, not being a rock) implies opposites. To have love you must have hate. To have light you must have dark. To have joy you must have sorrow. To have white you must have black. If everything was red, you would not know what red is because there would be nothing to compare red with. No rainbows. Life is a rainbow. If there were no opposites then everything would be the same. All you would have is nothingness and thus life itself implies opposites. You could be a rock and suffer no pain or be a human being and fall in love and then get emotionally kicked in the teeth. The choice is yours - rock or human? God is all-powerful but, in my theory anyway, he chose to limit his own ability to intervene in human affairs; he sets rules and then lets us get on with it. What would be the point of free will otherwise? How could we make choices if God is always going to stick his nose into our affairs - sort everything out for us? Thus God created a framework (which includes disaster, sickness and bad luck) and we operate within that framework - and it involves pain and suffering and hate, but it also involves love and joy and forgiveness. We might be dealt a bad hand personally but we must make the most of it - the alternative is not to be dealt a hand at all. Would you like that? So what about prayer? If God doesn't intervene what's the point of it? Well, I didn't say that God never intervenes; sometimes he does. But this is not what prayer is about, in my view. Prayer is about seeking the wisdom to cope with the situation we find ourselves in (such as to find forgiveness where we see only hatred), to make the right choices, to find our way on the path to perfection, to love our fellow men a little bit more and, in doing so, to come a little closer to God. Well, that's my theory anyway. It makes sense to me.

Sor (Sister) María - A plea for beatification and then canonization

Firstly, it is clear that Sor María would have considered herself unworthy of any distinction, since she considered herself to be the least deserving of God's creatures, but, by definition, no true saint would ever pursue sainthood.

Secondly, it is clear that the beatification process should be allowed to continue as a matter of correct procedure. In other words, what has held the process up so far is procedural irregularity, such as requiring a 'nihil obstat' when her writings have already been approved as part of the process by which she was declared 'Venerable'. Her writings should not therefore pose an obstacle.

Thirdly, considering the steps of canonization it is clear that:

  • Sor María's writings contain nothing contrary to faith or morals and any uncertainties as to facts can be disregarded as (1) minor and (2) not affecting doctrine (this step has already been completed as part of the process by which she was declared 'Venerable', as stated);
  • Sor María lived a life of heroic virtue (this step has already been completed as part of the process by which she was declared 'Venerable', as stated);
  • Sor María's miracles of bilocation have been proved in this document in accordance with relevant legal standards of proof and in accordance with the standards used by the Roman Catholic Church to assess apparitions or bilocations (including that of Our Lady of the Pillar in AD40), as explained above.

What would be most irregular is to require a re-examination of a person's writings after they have been declared 'Venerable', since this would imply that the person was declared 'Venerable' without a proper examination of his/her writings. In the case of Sor María, Benedict XIII decreed that 'her works [without exception] may be kept and read', so to require a re-examination of her works would go against a papal ruling as well.

The remaining steps to canonization are as follows:

  • For beatification - 'The remaining step before beatification is the approval of a miracle, evidence of the intercessory power of the Venerable Servant of God and thus of his or her union after death with God. Those who propose a miracle do so in the diocese where it is alledged to have occurred, not in the diocese of the Cause, unless the same. The diocese of the candidate miracle then conducts its own tribunals, scientific and theological... As occured at the diocesan level, the Congregation for the Causes of the the Saints establishes both scientific and theological commissions. The affirmative vote of the theological commission is transmitted to the General Meeting of the cardinal and episcopal members, whose affirmative judgment is forwarded to the Supreme Pontiff. It should be noted that in cases of martyrdom the miracle required for beatification can be waived - martyrdom being understood as a miracle of grace. In this case, the vote of the Congregation would establish the death of the Servant of God as true martyrdom, resulting in a Decree of Martyrdom by the Holy Father. With the Holy Father's approval of a Decree of a Miracle, the Servant of God can be beatified.'
  • For canonization - 'After beatification the Church looks for a second miracle before proceeding to canonization. The process is the same as it was for the miracle which made beatification possible. The alleged miracle is studied by scientific and theological commissions in the diocese in which it is alleged to have occurred. After the diocesan process is concluded the proposed miracle is studied by a scientific and then a theological commission of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. The vote of this commission is forwarded to the episcopal members of the Congregation whose affirmative vote is communicated to the Holy Father. The consent of the Holy Father to the decision of the Congregation results in a Decree of a Miracle. Canonization is now possible.'

Thus, all that remains for beatification is to formally confirm a miracle in accordance with this procedure.

With regard to the second miracle required after beatification to proceed to canonization, this can be dispensed with on the basis that Sor María was twice martyred for her faith by the Indians of the Colorado River as described above and that she thus qualifies to be treated as a martyr rather than a confessor (person not martyred) and that the requirement for miracles after beatification can therefore be dispensed with (as with Maximilian Kolbe for instance); bearing in mind that Sor María has, in fact, already performed numerous miracles, including the medically-attested miraculous cure of Sor Colette of Nivelles in 1867.

Though it should not affect the outcome, the canonization of Sor María would go some way towards addressing what Pope John Paul II stated in his 'Letter to Women': 'Unfortunately, we are heirs to a history which has conditioned us to a remarkable extent. In every time and place, this conditioning has been an obstacle to the progress of women. Women's dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity. Certainly it is no easy task to assign the blame for this, considering the many kinds of cultural conditioning which down the centuries have shaped ways of thinking and acting. And if objective blame, especially in particular historical contexts, has belonged to not just a few members of the Church, for this I am truly sorry... Yes, it is time to examine the past with courage, to assign responsibility where it is due in a review of the long history of humanity. Women have contributed to that history as much as men and, more often than not, they did so in much more difficult conditions. I think particularly of those women who loved culture and art, and devoted their lives to them in spite of the fact that they were frequently at a disadvantage from the start, excluded from equal educational opportunities, underestimated, ignored and not given credit for their intellectual contributions. Sadly, very little of women's achievements in history can be registered by the science of history. But even though time may have buried the documentary evidence of those achievements, their beneficent influence can be felt as a force which has shaped the lives of successive generations, right up to our own. To this great, immense feminine "tradition" humanity owes a debt which can never be repaid. Yet how many women have been and continue to be valued more for their physical appearance than for their skill, their professionalism, their intellectual abilities, their deep sensitivity; in a word, the very dignity of their being!'

Pope John Paul II stated in his 'Mulieris Dignitatem' that: 'The feminine presence in the Church has not been emphasized much, because the temptation of chauvinism has not allowed for the place that belongs to the women of the community to be made very visible.' (Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Abraham Skorska, On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family, and the Church in the Twenty-First Century, Image Books, 2013, p. 100-101)

There is one further point. The Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum, solemnly promulgated by His Holiness Pope Paul VI on 18 November 1965 (para. 4) states: 'The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Tim. 6:14 and Tit. 2:13).' and (para. 8 et seq.):

'8. And so the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved by an unending succession of preachers until the end of time. Therefore the Apostles, handing on what they themselves had received, warn the faithful to hold fast to the traditions which they have learned either by word of mouth or by letter (see 2 Thess. 2:15), and to fight in defense of the faith handed on once and for all (see Jude 1:3) (4) Now what was handed on by the Apostles includes everything which contributes toward the holiness of life and increase in faith of the peoples of God; and so the Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes.

This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. (5) For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her.

The words of the holy fathers witness to the presence of this living tradition, whose wealth is poured into the practice and life of the believing and praying Church. Through the same tradition the Church's full canon of the sacred books is known, and the sacred writings themselves are more profoundly understood and unceasingly made active in her; and thus God, who spoke of old, uninterruptedly converses with the bride of His beloved Son; and the Holy Spirit, through whom the living voice of the Gospel resounds in the Church, and through her, in the world, leads unto all truth those who believe and makes the word of Christ dwell abundantly in them (see Col. 3:16).

9. Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For Sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit, while sacred tradition takes the word of God entrusted by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, and hands it on to their successors in its full purity, so that led by the light of the Spirit of truth, they may in proclaiming it preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence.(6)

10. Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort. (7) But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, (8) has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church, (9) whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.

It is clear, therefore, that sacred tradition, Sacred Scripture and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God's most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others, and that all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit contribute effectively to the salvation of souls.'

The question is this: 'How can growth in understanding the realities and the words which have been handed down take place via the contemplation and study of believers if the fruits of those contemplations and studies are dismissed precisely because they represent a growth in understanding; that is, are something new?' This implies ossification of the Church's understanding of sacred scripture.

'I will yet pour out doctrine as prophecy, and will leave it to them that seek wisdom, and will not cease to instruct their offspring even to the holy age' (Ecclus. 24:46).

Further information

See http://www.mariadeagreda.org for further information.

Other Maria Coronels

All the following Maria Coronels are connected to Maria de Agreda as described below.

Maria Fernandez Coronel (1334-1409) was the youngest of the three daughters of Alfonso Fernandez Coronel, Lord of Aguilar de la Frontera ('The Eagle's Nest of the Frontier'), who was executed by King Peter the Cruel (1334-1369) in 1353. King Peter the Cruel also executed Maria's husband, Juan de la Cerda (1327-1357), in 1357; he was a descendant of, amongst others, King Henry II of England.

  • Juan de la Cerda (1327-1357) was the younger son of Luis de la Cerda (1291-1348), 1st Prince of the Fortunate Isles or Blessed Isles (Canary Islands), Count of Clermont (France), 1st Count of Talmont (France) and Admiral of France. Following the grant to him of the Fortunate Isles by Pope Clement VI, including his coronation by the Pope in Avignon, Luis de la Cerda was known popularly as 'Infante de la Fortuna' ('Child of Fortune'). The islands listed in the Papal Bull of 15 November 1344 ('Tu devonitis sinceritas') included 'Atlantica', a name derived from Pliny, so Luis de la Cerda became (certainly) Lord of Atlantica and (arguably) Lord of Atlantis, sometimes identified with the Canary Islands.
  • Luis de la Cerda (1291-1348) was the fourth son of Alfonso de la Cerda ('The Disinherited') (1270-1333) and Matilda of Brienne.
  • Alfonso de la Cerda (1270-1333) was the elder son of Ferdinand de la Cerda (1253-1275) and Blanche of France (1253-1323), daughter of King Louis IX of France .
  • Ferdinand de la Cerda (1253-1275) was the Crown Prince of Castile as the eldest son of King Alfonso X of Castile (1221-1284) and Violante of Aragon ('de la Cerda' means 'of the bristles' and refers to the fact that Ferdinand was born with a full head of hair).

On the death of Alfonso X in 1284, the throne of Castile, which should have passed to Alfonso de la Cerda (1270-1333), was usurped by Sancho of Castile (1258-1295), younger brother of Ferdinand de la Cerda (1253-1275), who thereby became King Sancho IV of Castile. Sancho IV was the great-grandfather of King Peter the Cruel (1334-1369).

Of the brothers of Luis de la Cerda (1291-1348) - Ferdinand (1286-c1340), Alfonso (1289-1327) and Henry (1290-after 1326) - it appears that only Alfonso left any male children, and that child, Charles de la Cerda, Constable of France and Count of Angoulême, was murdered in 1354. Thus, from 1354, Luis de la Cerda (c1325-1383), 2nd Prince of the Fortunate Isles and 2nd Count of Talmont, son of Luis de la Cerda (1291-1348) and elder brother of Juan de la Cerda (1327-1357), was de jure (rightful) King of Castile. So Juan de la Cerda (1327-1357), who married Maria Coronel (1334-1409), was de jure (rightfully) a prince of Castile and in line to the throne of Castile after his elder brother, Luis.

Luis de la Cerda (1291-1348), de jure (rightful) King of Castile, married Leonor Perez de de Guzman y Coronel, daughter of Don Alonso Perez de Guzman ('El Bueno') (1256-1309), Lord of Sanlucar de Barrameda, and Maria Alonso Coronel (1267-1332), who are described below. Thus, Maria Alonso Coronel's daughter, Leonor, became de jure (rightful) Queen of Castile and, arguably, Queen of Atlantis (see above). So Maria Coronel (1267-1332) was the grandmother of the two sons of Luis de la Cerda (1291-1348), that is Luis de la Cerda (c1325-1383) and Juan de la Cerda (1327-1357), who were de jure (rightful) heirs of the throne of Castile, and her great-niece, Maria Coronel (1334-1409) was the wife of the younger of those two rightful heirs (Juan) and, as such, de jure a Princess of Castile.

The blood of the de la Cerda family found its way back into the royal line of Castile with the marriage of King Henry II of Castile (1334-1379) to Juana Manuel (1339-1381), great-granddaughter of Ferdinand de la Cerda (1253-1275). Thus, King Henry II, who married a member of the de la Cerda family, murdered King Peter the Cruel, who had murdered Juan de la Cerda, husband of Maria Coronel, rightfully in line to the throne of Castile between 1354 and 1357.

The arms of de la Cerda, the rightful royal house of Castile. Castile (the castle) and Leon (the lion) quartered with France.

A woman of astonishing beauty, Maria Coronel was pursued by King Peter the Cruel. She eventually fled into the Convent of Santa Clara, Seville, where she poured boiling oil onto her face and body to disfigure herself and so dampen the King's lust (remember that this was the man who murdered her father and her husband). She founded the Convent of St. Agnes (St. Ines), Seville, in 1374, and became the first abbess. Her uncorrupted body is on display there every 2nd December, the anniversary of her death. See http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mar%C3%ADa_Fern%C3%A1ndez_Coronel.

Following the execution of Alfonso Fernandez Coronel in 1353, the Lordship of Aguilar de la Frontera was inherited by Bernard II de Cabrera (executed 1364), Viscount of Cabrera, but the lordship was later granted by King Henry II to Gonzalez Fernandez de Cordoba in 1370 and so lost to the Cabrera family, the rightful heirs. Bernard V de Cabrera (d. 1466), Viscount of Cabrera, was the father of another Bernard de Cabrera, who was the father of an only (illegitmate) daughter, Violante de Cabrera, who I believe was the Violante de Cabrera who married Don Abraham Senior, who adopted the name Fernan/Fernando Perez Coronel on his conversion to Christianity in 1492. Thus it appears that the children of Don Abraham Senior (1410/12-1493) and Violante de Cabrera were de jure heirs (or potential heirs) of the Coronel family in the Lordhip of Aguilar de la Frontera, through descent from the de Aguilar family, original Lords of Aguilar de la Frontera. Bernard I de Cabrera, 1st Viscount of Cabrera, married Leonor de Aguilar and Maria Alonso Coronel was the daughter of Fernando González Coronel and his wife Sancha Iñíguez de Aguilar (d 15 Oct 1322), according to the will of Maria Fernandez Coronel. Other sources say she was called Sancha Vazquez de Cuña but they appear to be the same person.

The de Aguilar family were descended from a troubadour and knight-errant (some of his songs are extant - see link below) called Gonzalo Yáñez (or Eanes) do Vinhal (correctly d'Ovinhal I think) y Aguilar (d 1283), 1st Lord of Aguilar (including Monturque), who served three Kings of Castile (Fernando III of Castile, Alfonso X of Castile, Sancho IV of Castile) in successive wars against the Moors in both Portugal and Castile and who was eventually killed in battle in 1283. According to Wikipedia (see link below), he married Berengaria de Cardona y Folch*, daughter of Ramon Folch, sixth Viscount of Cardona (the family later became Dukes of Cardona and were known as 'the kings without crowns' because they were the most powerful family after the king; their fortune derived from a salt mountain near Cardona). Gonzalo Yáñez (or Eanes) do Vinhal y Aguilar is buried in Royal Chapel of San Clemente in the Cathedral of Cordoba. Gonzalo Yáñez (or Eanes) do Vinhal y Aguilar was the son of Juan Gómez d'Ovinhal, of a family from the area of Vila Nova de Famalicão (Braga, Portugal) - but originally from Toledo it seems, and Maria Perez de Aguiar, daughter of Pedro Méndez de Aguiar, from Aguiar (Vila Pouca de Aguiar) in Portugal, which is the source of the name of Aguilar de la Frontera.

*Apparently his second wife. His first wife was apparenetly Juana Ruiz de Castro, daughter of Rodrigo Fernández de Castro and Leonor González de Lara.

http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzalo_Y%C3%A1%C3%B1ez_de_Aguilar
http://pt.wikisource.org/wiki/Categoria:Gon%C3%A7alo_Eanes_do_Vinhal

Ruins of the Castle of Pena de Aguiar, Vila Pouca de Aguiar, Portugal. 'The Place of the Eagles' or 'Eagles' Nest', source of the name of Aguiar (Portugal) and Aguilar (Spain).

Coat of arms of Vila Pouca de Aguiar, Portugal.

Royal Chapel of San Clemente in the Cathedral of Cordoba.

A knight-errant - Don Quixote in this case.

'I am a stranger and a knight adventurous
who laboureth throughout many realms
for to win worship.'
- Don Quixote

'worship' - renown for brave deeds

Don Quixote - The Knight of the Doleful Countenance.

A knight errant - 'East of the Sun and West of the Moon' by Kay Nielsen.

Cardona Castle, the most important castle in Catalonia, built by Wilfred the Hairy in 886; now a parador.

Maria Fernandez Coronel (1334-1409), de jure Princess of Castile, painted by Joaquin Dominguez Becquer in 1846, showing the burns on her face.

The uncorrupted body of Maria Fernandez Coronel (1334-1409), de jure Princess of Castile, in the Convent of St. Agnes (St. Ines), Seville.

The cover of the book 'El Amor Imposible de Pedro el Cruel - Dona Maria Coronel' ('The Impossible Love of Pedro the Cruel - Dona Maria Coronel') by Carlos Ros, Seville, 1989.

Maria Coronel had an equally beautiful elder sister, Aldonza Coronel, who became the mistress of King Peter the Cruel in an attempt to obtain a pardon for her husband, Alvar Perez de Guzman 'the Younger', who had rebelled against the King and was in exile in Aragon. Later King Peter the Cruel imprisoned Aldonza in the 'Torre del Oro' ('The Golden Tower') in Seville, where he also kept his treasure. See 'Aldonza Coronel, Esposa de dos Álvar Pérez de Guzmán', Laureano Rodríguez Liáñez and Ana Marta Anasagasti Valderrama, Universidad De Sevilla, 2004, for more information. Aldonza was the 'real' name of 'Dulcinea', the true love of Don Quixote de la Mancha.

Sophia Loren as 'Dulcinea' (Aldonza) in 'Man of La Mancha'.

The 'Torre del Oro' ('The Golden Tower') in Seville, where King Peter the Cruel imprisoned his mistress, Aldonza Coronel.

Aldonza Coronel in the Golden Tower, Seville (actually Rapunzel in this picture).

In the legends and lore of Spain, Maria Coronel is known as 'Flor de los Cielos' ('The Flower of the Heavens') and Aldonza Coronel is known as 'Flor de la Tierra' ('The Flower of the World') ('El Amor Imposible de Pedro el Cruel - Dona Maria Coronel' ('The Impossible Love of Pedro the Cruel - Dona Maria Coronel') by Carlos Ros, Seville, 1989, p. 103).

The real 'Zorro', Leonor 'The Treacherous', Queen of Portugal, descent from the Visigothic Kings of Asturias and the prophet Muhammad

Partial family tree of the Coronel family. The full name of Sancha Gonzalez, wife of Juan Fernandez Coronel, was Sancha Gonzalez de Meneses. She was the daughter of Gonzalo Yáñez de Meneses (see 10b in linked document), called 'El Zorro' ('The Fox' or 'El Raposo' in Portuguese) due to his cunning in war, and Urraca, daughter of Fernán Yáñez de Limia (or Lima). Thus, Aldonza and Maria Coronel were the great-granddaughters of Zorro (the real one). Gonzalo Yáñez de Meneses was the great-grandfather of Leonor Telles de Meneses 'The Treacherous' (1350-1386), Queen of Portugal, wife of Ferdinand I 'The Handsome' (1345-1383). Gonzalo Yáñez de Meneses was the son of Juan Alonso Telles de Meneses (d 1268), whose sister, Mayor, maried, as his third wife, Alfonso de Leon, Lord of Molina, son of King Alfonso IX of Leon (1171-1230). They were the parents of Maria de Molina (c1265-1321), who married King Sancho IV of Castile (1258-1295) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mar%C3%ADa_de_Molina). So Gonzalo Yáñez de Meneses was first cousin to Maria de Molina, Queen of Castile. Gonzalo Yáñez de Meneses was also the great-grandson of King Sancho I of Portugal (1154-1212) via his illegitimate daughter, Teresa, who married Alfonso Téllez de Meneses 'el Viejo' ('The Old') (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfonso_T%C3%A9llez_de_Meneses_el_Viejo), which is probably why he called his daughter Sancha.

Gonzaleanes Coronel, who married Maria Fernandez (daughter of Fernando Gil), was the son of a Juan Coronel, whose wife's name is unknown, who was the son of Pedro Coronel and Maria Rodrigues. Pedro Coronel was the son of another Pedro Coronel and Justa Paez de Silva. This Pedro Coronel was the first of the name (that we know of) and was a Knight of Castile who fought with Henry of Burgundy (1066-1112), Count of Portugal, in the re-conquest of Portugal. Justa Paez de Silva was the daughter of Pelayo Gutierrez de Silva, Lord of Aldarete (c1070-1129), son of Gauthier Pelaez de Silva, Lord of Quinta de Silva, son of Pelayo Pelaez de Carrion of Asturias, Lord of Cisneros, son of Pelayo Fruela of Asturias, Lord of Carrion, son of Fruela II (c875–925), King of Asturias, descended from Pelayo (c685–737), a Visigothic nobleman who founded the Kingdom of Asturias. Thus, the Coronel family traced back to the Visigoths.

The mother of Justa Paez de Silva was Usenda (Adosinda) Ermiguiz Abunasar of Asturias, whose descent from Muhammad is as follows (see here for this and other lines):

Mohammed "The Prophet" d 632 = Kadidja, dau of Khuwaylid
Kalthum (dau) = Utayba, son of Abu Lahab
dau [or dau of Marwan [& wife Aisha], son of Hakim, son of Abu-el-Asis] = Yazid II, Caliph 720-724, son of Abd al-Malik, Caliph 685-705
Hisham, Caliph, in Syria, 724-743
Abd er-Rahman I, Emir of Spain, d 788
Hakam I, Emir, d 822
Abd-er-Rahman II, Emir, d 852
Muhammed I, Caliph, in Spain, d 886
Abdallah I, Emir of Spain 848-912 = Onega Fortunez
Zayd [ibn Abdallah]
Zaydan
Zaira = Lovesendo, son of Fethe, son of Abeth al-Hasani, son of the Idrissid, al-Hasan al-Hajjam, son of Muhammed, son of al-Kassim, son of Idris II (792-828), son of Idris I (d 792), son of Abdullah, son of al-Hasan al-Muthanna, son of al-Hasan (625-670), whose mother was Fatima, dau of Mohammed "The Prophet"
Abu-Nazir Lovesendiz de Leon = Unisco Godinez de Asturias
Hermigio Abunazar [Alboazar] de Leon = Vivili Trutesendiz
Adosinda (dau) = Pelayo Gutierrez de Silva
Justa Paez de Silva = Pedro Coronel (above)

Interestingly, Maria de Agreda appears to have been descended from Muhammad through the Cabrera family as follows (see the link below):

Muhammad
Umm Kalthum bint Muhammad (daughter of Muhammad)
Umm Ayyub (daughter of Umm Kalthum bint Muhammad)
Hisham I ibn 'Abd, Caliph in Damascus
Mu'awiya ibn Hisham (712?-736?)
'Abd arRahman I aldakhil, Emir of Cordoba
Hisham I, Emir of Cordoba (d 796?)
alHakam I alRabdi ibn Hisham, Emir of Cordoba
Abd arRahman II alMutawassit, Emir of Cordoba
Muhammed I, Emir of Cordoba
'Abd Allah I, Emir of Cordoba
Muhammed II, Emir? of Cordoba
Abd arRahman III alNasir, Emir of Cordoba
alHakam II alMustansir, Caliph in Cordoba (915-976)
Mawiyah bint Alhakam of Cordoba (b 955?) (daughter of alHakam II alMustansir, Caliph in Cordoba)
Nuno (Munio) Gonsalez de Lara
Gonsalo Nunez de Lara
Nuno (Munio) Gonsalez de Lara (? 1097?)
Gonsalo Nunez de Lara (1042?-1103?) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonzalo_N%C3%BA%C3%B1ez_de_Lara
Pedro Gonsalez de Lara, Count of Lara (d 1130?)
Manrique (Manriquez) Perez de Lara (d 1164?), Count of Lara http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manrique_P%C3%A9rez_de_Lara
Milia Manrique de Lara (daughter of Manrique (Manriquez) Perez de Lara (d 1164?))
Ximena Gomez de Manzanedo (daughter of Gomez Gonzalez de Manzanedo)
Eylo Perez de Castro (daughter of Perdo Fernandez de Castro)
Guerao V de Cabrera (?-1242), Vescomte de Cabrera
Ramon de Cabrera (?-1298), Señor de Anglés y Brunola
Bernardo I de Cabrera (1332), Vescomte de Cabrera
Bernardo II de Cabrera (?-beheaded Zaragoza 26 Jul 1364), Vescomte de Cabrera
Bernardo III de Cabrera, Comte d'Osona, Vescomte de Cabrera
Bernardo IV de Cabrera (10 Aug 1352-Sicily Sep 1423), Comte d'Osona, Comte de Módica (Sicily), Vescomte de Cabrera y Bas
Bernardo V de Cabrera (?-14 May 1466), Comte de Módica y d'Osona, Vescomte de Cabrera y Bas
Bernard de Cabrera (d before 1467)
Violante de Cabrera (believed to be first wife of Don Abraham Senior)

The Church of Omnium Sanctorum, Seville. The building on the left is the old Coronel palace, which later became the Palace of the Marquises of Algaba (Palacio de los Marqueses de la Algaba), now a museum.

Maria Alonso Coronel (1267-1332), great-aunt of Maria Fernandez Coronel (1334-1409), above, was the wife of Don Alonso Perez de Guzman ('El Bueno') (1256-1309), Lord of Sanlucar de Barrameda (http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guzm%C3%A1n_el_Bueno), one of the great heroes of Spanish history. They were the ancestors of (founders of the house of) the Dukes of Medina-Sidonia. Her tomb with the Coronel arms can be seen in the Monastery of San Isidoro del Campo in Santiponce, Seville (http://www.genealogics.org/showmedia.php?mediaID=5726&medialinkID=6033), which she and her husband founded.

In 1294, during the seige of the castle of Tarifa, which Don Alonso Perez de Guzman commanded, by Don Juan (1262-1319), brother of King Sancho IV, and the Moors of Morocco, Don Juan threatened to kill Don Alonso Perez de Guzman's young son, Pedro Alonso Perez de Guzman, who Don Juan held captive, if Don Alonso Perez de Guzman did not surrender the castle. Guzman threw down his own knife to Don Juan to show how much he despised Don Juan's conduct, saying "I did not beget a son to be made use of against my country, but that he should serve her against her foes. Should Don Juan put him to death, he will but confer honour on me, true life on my son, and on himself eternal shame in this world and everlasting wrath after death." Don Juan immediately murdered Pedro Alonso Perez de Guzman in front of the castle walls. The siege failed.

The siege of Tarifa in 1294. Don Alonso Perez de Guzman throws his own knife down to Don Juan, who was threatening to kill his son, Pedro Alonso Perez de Guzman. The woman portrayed is undoubtedly Dona Maria Alonso Coronel, his wife.

Statue of Don Alonso Perez de Guzman ('El Bueno') (1256-1309) in Tarifa. This shows him in the act of throwing down his knife to Don Juan.

The castle of Tarifa.  

The tomb of Maria Alonso Coronel in the Monastery of San Isidoro del Campo, Santiponce, Seville. The arms of Coronel (or, five eagles dispayed gules) are shown.

Oh illustrious Rome! If only you had known of her
when you ruled the whole world!
What glory! What fame! What prose! What verse!
What a temple of purity would you have built for her!

Translation of verse 79 of the 'Labyrinth of Fortune' (1444) by Juan de Mena, which refers to Maria Alonso Coronel and is quoted on her tomb.

According to a generally accepted legend, in 1291, during the absence of her husband in Morocco, Maria Alonso Coronel was subject to such temptations of the flesh that, in order to overcome them, she inserted a flaming brand into her 'natural member', thus causing an injury that she suffered from for the rest of her life. The flaming brands shown either side of the coat of arms above her tomb apparently refer to this legend.

Verse 79 of the 'Labyrinth of Fortune' starts:

'Poco más bajo vi otras enteras.
La muy casta dueña de manos crueles,
digna corona de los Coroneles
que quiso con fuego vencer sus hogueras.'

which translates as:

'Further down I saw others amongst them
The very chaste lady with the cruel hands
Worthy crown of the Coronels
Who tried with fire to defeat her fires.'

The verse then continues as above - 'Oh illustrious Rome! ...'

The tomb of Maria Alfonso Coronel in the Monastery of San Isidoro del Campo, Santiponce, Seville.

As stated above, her daughter, Leonor Perez de Guzman y Coronel, married Luis de la Cerda (1291-1348), de jure (rightful) King of Castile, 1st Prince of the Fortunate Isles (Canary Islands), Count of Clermont (France), 1st Count of Talmont (France) and Admiral of France. Thus, Leonor Perez de Guzman y Coronel was de jure Queen of Castile, and actual Princess of the Fortunate Isles, Countess of Clermont, Countess of Talmont and (arguably) Queen of Atlantis (given that Atlantica was one of the islands identified in the Papal Bull of 1344 granting the Fortunate Isles (Canary Isles) to Luis de la Cerda, and that the Canary Isles have been identified with Atlantis by some scholars).

Another Maria Coronel, a grand-daughter of Don Abraham Senior, was the second wife of (and mother of the two sons of) Juan Bravo (x 1521), the popular Spanish hero who led a revolt against the Emperor, Charles V, the War of the Communities (1520-22), the first popular revolution in history, and who was a member of the most distinguished family in Spain, the Mendoza family, Dukes of Infantado (his mother was María de Mendoza, daughter of the Count of Monteagudo).

Statue of Juan Bravo (x 1521) in Segovia

Maria Coronel married, secondly, Fadrique de Solis and had issue and the chapel is therefore often called the Coronel-Solis Chapel (Chapel of the Descent (Capilla del Descendimiento), Monastery of Santa Maria del Parral, Segovia). It is possible that this is the family of Isabel de Solis, a beautful maiden who was captured by the Moors in 1470. Abu I-Hasan Ali, the King of Granada, fell in love with her and made her his Queen. The Segovia de Solis family into which Maria Coronel married certainly used the same coat of arms as the noble de Solis family. She was known amongst the Moors as Zoraya ('The Star of the Morning'). A Jewish de Solis family later became prominent in the United States. It is not known whether this family is descended from the family of Isabel de Solis.

Isabel de Solis, The Star of the Morning.    

The Tower of the Captive, Alhambra; named after its most famous occupant, Isabel de Solis. Presumably she moved into the palace when she became Queen.

The Alhambra. The Tower of the Captive is at the top-left of the picture, second from the top.

My mother's name is Pamela Mary Senior. She is a descendant of Don Abraham Senior. 'Senior' is the re-adopted and original name of the Coronel family; so my mother's Hispanicized name would be 'Pamela Maria Coronel'. Here is a descent line from Alphonso X of Castile to my mother (the line of descent is in bold).

Alphonso X 'The Wise', King of Castile (b. 23 Nov 1221 d. 4 Apr 1284) = Yolande of Aragon (d. About 1300)
Sancho IV 'The Fierce', King of Castile (b. 13 May 1258 d. 25 April 1295) = Maria de Molina (d. 17 July 1321)
Ferdinand IV, King of Castile (b. 6 Dec 1285 d. 7 Sep 1312) = Constance of Portugal (b. 3 Jan 1290 d. 17 Nov 1313)
Alfonso XI 'El Justo', King of Castile (b. 11 Aug 1311 d. 27 Mar 1350) = Maria of Portugal (b. 1313 d. 18 Jan 1357)
Pedro I 'The Cruel', King of Castile (b. 30 Aug 1334 d. 23 Mar 1369) = Maria de Padilla (b. About 1335 d. About 1361)
Edmund of Langley, Duke of York (b. 5 Jun 1341 d. 1 Aug 1402) = Isabella of Castile (b. 1355 d. 23 Nov 1393)
Richard, Earl of Cambridge (b. About Sep 1375 d. 5 Aug 1415) = Anne Mortimer (b. 27 Dec 1390 d. Sep 1411)
Richard, Duke of York (b. 1415 d. 1460) = Cicely Nevill 'The Rose of Raby' (b. 3 May 1415 d. 31
Edward IV, King of England (b. 29 Apr 1441 d. 8 Apr 1483) #
Elizabeth Lucy or Wayte (she was Edward IV's long-term mistress)
Sir Thomas Lumley (b. About 1460 d. 1487) = Elizabeth Plantagenet (b. About 1464) (illegitimate daughter of Edward IV by Elizabeth Lucy)
Roger Lumley = Isabel Ratcliffe
John Lambton of Lambton (b. 1505 d. 1582) (Ancestor of the Lambton Earls of Durham) = Agnes Lumley (d. After 6 Mar 1545)
Robert Lambton of Lambton (d. 1583) = Frances Eure
John Lambton of Durham (d. 1628) = Katherine Kirby
John Lambton of Durham (b. 1624) = Margaret Hall
Sir Robert Eden (b. 1644 d. 17 May 1720) (Ancestor of Anthony Eden (1897-1977), Prime Minister and 1st Earl of Avon) = Margaret Lambton (b. 1651 d. 22 Jul 1730)
Sir John Eden (b. About 1680 d. 2 May 1728) = Catherine Shafto (d. 2 Jul 1730)
Sir Robert Eden (b. About 1718 d. 25 Jun 1755) = Mary Davison of Beamish (d. 30 Jan 1794)
Thomas Eden (b. 1734 d. 1 May 1805) = Mariana Jones (b. About 1750)
Arthur Eden (b. 9 Aug 1793 d. 1874) = Frances Buncombe-Poulett-Thomson (d. 25 Mar 1877)
Hugh Hammersley (d. 28 Sep 1882) = Dulcibella Eden (d. 1903)
Walter Nassau Senior (b. 1850 d. 1933) = Mabel Barbara Hammersley (b. 1864 d. 1943)
Oliver Nassau Senior (b. 1901 d. 1992) = Dorothy Gardner Smith (b. 31 May 1904 d. 1987)
Pamela Mary Senior (b. 25 Aug 1928)

Postscript - Sor (Sister) María's supposed coat of arms at the Convent of the Immaculate Conception, Ágreda, Soria, Spain

Interestingly, the arms attributed to her family (in fact, they appear to have been derived from the arms of the Order of the Immaculate Conception), as shown above the main door of her convent, are not listed amongst any of the arms attributed to the Coronel family at heraldicahispana.com. However, a coat of arms (or what looks like a coat of arms) can be seen through the glass of the sarcophagus containing her uncorrupted body (in the Convent of the Order of the Immaculate Conception in Ágreda). These arms (if they are arms) look rather like the arms of Coronel (five eagles displayed), but may not be related to the sarcophagus, and even if they are, may not be five eagles. It is difficult to tell what they are - possibly the five wounds of Christ (but the arrangement is wrong).

Arms (apparently) of the family of María Coronel y Arana. Arms (or what appears to be arms) beside the sarcophagus of María Coronel y Arana. Five eagles? Arms of Don Abraham Senior or Coronel and his descendants.

Postscript - Another Coronel in the US South-West

Don Antonio Francisco Coronel (October 21, 1817, Mexico City - April 17, 1894, Los Angeles) was an officer in the Mexican Army, inspector of the California missions for the Mexican government and then (following the conquest of California by the USA in 1847) fourth mayor of Los Angeles from 1853 to 1854; he became a rich and influential rancher, merchant, gold prospector and public figure in the Los Angeles area and was an ardent defender of the rights of native Indians. He was the son of Ygnacio Coronel (1795-1862), of Mexico City, and his wife, Maria Josefa Francisca Romero (1802–1871), of Toluca. Ygnacio Coronel was the son of Augustin Franco Coronel of Andalusia, Spain, and Ygnacia Salazar. In 1834, when Antonio was 17, Ygnacio Coronel took his family to Alta California as a part of the Híjar-Padrés Colony and in 1843 Ygnacio was granted Rancho La Cañada, a 5,832 acre (23.60 km2) ranch in the San Rafael Hills and Crescenta Valley of present day Los Angeles County (the average price of a house in La Cañada Flintridge is now over $1.3 million (2010)), but the patent was declared invalid in 1866. Ygnacio was also granted the ranchos of Corralitos in 1836 (granted to Jose Amesti in 1844), Sierra de Cucamonga, near Alta Loma (which was never patented), and Cajon de los Negros at Cajon in 1846 (later claimed by an American settler). Ygnacio was thus granted and lost four ranchos. Ygnacio Coronel founded the first school of consequence in Los Angeles. In 1838, Antonio was appointed Assistant Secretary of Tribunals for the City of Los Angeles and in 1843 he became Justice of the Peace (Juez de Paz, the equivalent of Mayor at that time). During the Mexican-American War of 1846-47, he served as a Captain and Sergeant-at-arms in the Mexican Artillery and took part in military operations against the United States; he had many adventures. After the war Antonio Coronel served as the first Los Angeles County Assessor (1850-1856). In 1853-1854 he was Mayor of Los Angeles. He served on the city council (1854–1867) and was California State Treasurer (1867–1871). In 1873, Antonio Coronel married Mariana Williamson, aged 23, of San Antonio, Texas. He was an enthusiastic collector and later donated his artistic and historical collection to the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and it became the basis for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. He was a founder member of the Historical Society of Southern California in 1843 and served as a Vice-President of the Society.

The children of Ygnacio and Maria Coronel were:

Josefa Franco Coronel, b. 1816, d. date unknown.*
Antonio Francisco Coronel, b. 21 Oct 1817, d. 17 Apr 1894.
Michaela Coronel, b. 1820, d. date unknown.
Soledad Coronel, b. 1826, d. date unknown.
Chepita Coronel, b. 1827, d. date unknown.
Manuel F. Coronel, b. 1830, d. date unknown.
Maria Antonia Coronel, b. 1834, d. date unknown.
Maria Rosa Antonia Franco Coronel, b. 29 Aug 1836, Msn. San Antonio De Padua, Monterey County, California, d. 16 Sep 1877, Los Angeles Los Angeles County, California.
Jose Ygnacio Franco Coronel, b. 1839, d. date unknown.
Panteleon Ygnacio Antonio Coronel, b. 1840, d. date unknown.

*She married Matias Sabich or Sabici (1798-1852), a Croatian immigrant to Mexico, who moved to California in 1834 and later planted the first orange trees in California. She is buried at the San Gabriel mission (see here for further details of the Sabich family).

Olvera Street - Street scene by Jennifer Morey Cunningham Olvera Street - 'Cinco de Mayo' by Sharon Weaver

Accompanying Ygnacio Coronel and his family in 1834 was his nephew, Augustin Olvera (1818-1876), who became the first county judge of the newly formed County of Los Angeles in 1850. In 1877 the Los Angeles Common Council renamed Vine Street, the oldest street in Los Angeles, to Olvera Street in his honour. Olvera Street is now the most historic, lively and visited part of the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument. 'Touted as A Mexican Street of Yesterday in a City of Today, Olvera Street was an instant success as a tourist site. La Opinión, the leading Spanish language daily, perhaps reflecting the sentiments among many Mexicans in the city, praised the project as "una calleja que recuerda al México viejo", "a street which recalls old Mexico"... As a tourist attraction, Olvera Street is a living museum paying homage to a romantic vision of old Mexico. The exterior facades of the brick buildings enclosing Olvera Street and on the small vendor stands lining its center are colorful piñatas, hanging puppets in white peasant garb, Mexican pottery, serapes, mounted bull horns, oversized sombreros, and a life-size stuffed donkey. Olvera Street attracts almost two million visitors per year. It has very quickly become a very popular tourist location due to its authenticity and very focused method of preserving Spanish culture."' (Wikipedia, 'Olvera Street', accessed 3/10/2014). The Coronel family would have been pleased I think - in some ways.

La Cañada in 1927.

In 1863 Antonio Coronel inherited (rather mysteriously*) the 6,647-acre (27 km2) Rancho Los Feliz, within which is the current Griffith Park, Los Angeles, (named after a later owner, Colonel Griffith (1850-1919), and site of the famous Hollywood sign) and the suburb of Los Angeles called Los Feliz; an affluent area of Los Angeles abutting Hollywood. Los Feliz includes the eastern half of Hollywood Boulevard and is the home to several studios and many Hollywood celebrities, as well as being the birthplace of Mickey Mouse. The old Rancho Feliz adobe is still standing within the Griffith Park boundaries at 4730 Crystal Springs Drive (Google map reference 34.132797, -118.280498). According to the writer John Weaver, the city’s first English-speaking theatre opened on July 4, 1848 in an annexe to the Coronel’s home; this could be regarded as the foundation of the arts industry in Hollywood/Los Angeles. See the map, 'The Old Spanish and Mexican Ranchos of Los Angeles County', here (Los Feliz, in the middle with the church, and La Cañada, due north of Los Feliz, are both marked). Antonio was also granted the rancho of Cañada atras de los Verdugos in 1846 but this grant was declared invalid by the US Land Commission (effectively a land grab by the US Government).

*Reyes Feliz, the brother-in-law of Joaquin Murrieta (widely considered to be the model for the legendary hero 'Zorro') was hanged for his involvement in the murder of General Bean in San Gabriel in 1852, and so was obviously in the Los Angeles area. Thus there is a possible link, which might be worth exploring further, from the man thought to be the model for 'Zorro', via the Feliz family and the Rancho Los Feliz, to Don Antonio Coronel. See below.

Los Angeles from Griffith Park, with the observatory in the foreground.

'In 1851 the U.S. Congress passed "An Act to Ascertain and Settle Private Land Claims in the State of California" which required all holders of Spanish and Mexican land grants to present their title for confirmation before the Board of California Land Commissioners. Land from titles not confirmed became part of the public domain. This Act placed the burden of proof of title on landholders and initiated a lengthy process of litigation that resulted in most Mexican Californians, or Californios, losing their titles. While 604 of the 813 claims brought before the Board were confirmed, most decisions were appealed to U.S. District Court and some on to U.S. Circuit Court and the Supreme Court. The confirmation process required lawyers, translators, and surveyors, and took an average of 17 years to resolve.' (On-line Archive of California, http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/hb109nb422/,accessed 28/9/2014). The Coronel family were victims of this process of legalized asset-stripping.

Antonio Coronel is noted as one of the earliest prospectors in the 1849 California Goldrush and started prospecting in 1848, before the goldrush proper of the following year. On his first day of prospecting Coronel dug 45 ounces of gold; the next day he dug 38 ounces; on the third day he dug 51 ounces (that's about $150,000 in today's money in 3 days; about $50,000 per day). In 1849 Coronel was forced off an even richer find by a large band of armed American prospectors; he would undoubtedly been murdered if he had resisted and clearly valued his life more than gold.

Antonio Coronel and his wife, Dona Mariana, were mentors of the author, Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), and inspired her most famous novel, the love story 'Ramona' (1884), with tales about his own life and times and the plight of the native Indians. It was in Coronel's Spanish-style house, in what was then a western suburb of Los Angeles (now the downtown corner of 7th and Alameda - other sources say 7th and Central Avenue), that Jackson became immersed in Coronel's romantic views of California's Mexican-era history and his insights into the decline of the Mission Indians, which Coronel attributed largely to the American conquest of California; a view later reflected in 'Ramona'. Having listened to his stories, Jackson wrote to Coronel that 'I am going to write a novel, in which will be set forth some Indian experiences in a way to move people's hearts. People will read a novel when they will not read serious books.' She was inspired by her friend Harriet Beecher Stowe's 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' (1852): 'If I could write a story that would do for the Indian one-hundredth part what Uncle Tom's Cabin did for the Negro, I would be thankful the rest of my life.' Ronald C. Woolsey writes in 'Migrants West' that 'Jackson spent days at the Coronel home listening to an animated Antonio Coronel detail sentimental tales about the rancho era, while his wife [Dona Mariana Williamson, whose father was a native of Maine]* acted as hostess and interpreter. He frequently played the guitar, sang ballads, and embellished yarns of Hispanic yesteryear.' As for the plight of the Mission Indians, Coronel supplied Jackson with names of people and places she should visit, arranged interviews, and even accompanied her on a trip to the Riverside-Hemet area, the general setting for the novel. Coronel helped edit the book, proofread it for historical accuracy, and offered suggestions on local details, writes Woolsey: 'Coronel's guidance affected the research behind Jackson's work by supplying his picture of Southern California against which backdrop the author could tell a story of larger context, the Native American issues.' On publication in 1884 'Ramona' became probably the most popular and influential novel about California ever written, with more than 15,000 copies sold in the ten months before Helen Jackson Hunt's death in 1885. One year after her death, the 'North American Review' called it 'unquestionably the best novel yet produced by an American woman' and named it, along with 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', one of the two most ethical novels of the 19th century. 600,000 copies were sold in the sixty years after its publication; there have been over 300 re-prints to date; the book has never been out of print. 'Ramona' has been adapted four times as a film (in 1910, 1916, 1928 and 1936), once as a TV series (on Mexican TV in 2000) and a play adaptation has been performed annually outdoors since 1923; the Ramona Pageant is the longest running outdoor play in the United States. 'To Ramona' is a 1964 song by Bob Dylan; a beautiful version of this was sung by Sinéad Lohan in 1996 (re-released in 2014 as part of 'A Woman's Heart - The Collection'). Both Louis Armstrong and Dolores de Rio (who starred in the 1928 film) sang songs about Ramona. 'Ramona' means 'Protecting Hands'.

'Many who read “Ramona” or witness the Ramona Outdoor Play still see it only as a love story; but it is much, much more. Jackson’s message still haunts us. She asks us to look at the wrongs of the past so that we might try to change the future. In the Ramona Pageant perhaps Father Gaspara says it best; “And as for you…Hear now the words of truth. You stand on law, on might and on the power of wealth. On these things justice can never grow. Beware the time when your great people rule the world only by wealth. The Indian now is driven out - so Christ will be! Take the Indians’ land yet they hear the sacred word: ’What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and lose his own soul?’”' (http://www.ramonabowl.com/morethan.htm, accessed 19/8/2014).

Don Antonio Coronel was ever the true and faithful friend of the Indians. They trusted him implicitly, and sought him out for advice and assistance in all their troubles. Among his last words to his faithful wife was this request: 'Mariana, when I am dead and gone, be kind to the Indians. Never turn one away without food.' (Carlyle Channing Davis and William A. Alderson, ‘The True Story of "Ramona": Its Facts And Fictions, Inspiration And Purpose’, Dodge Publishing Co., New York, 1914, p. 57).

*Mariana Williamson was the daughter of Nelson Williamson, a native of Maine, and Gertrude Roman, a Mexicano Tejano (i.e. a Spanish/Mexican Texan) woman from the Los Brazos river area (Texas). Roman is a Spanish surname, apparently from Ortigueira, Galicia. Mariana's parents brought her to California when she was 9 (i.e. in about 1859).

Publicity for the original 1923 open-air play.

A poster for the 1928 film 'Ramona' starring Dolores del Rio.

A poster for the 1936 film starring Loretta Young.

Loretta Young (1913-2000), who starred as Ramona in the 1936 film. Raquel Welch as Ramona in the 1959 open-air pageant; her first significant acting role.

A map of part of Los Angeles centered on the junction of East 7th Street and South Alameda Street showing the location of Don Antonio Coronel's property, being the site of the house ('El Recreo' - 'The Retreat') shown in the photograph below. The left-hand map shows a section of Stevenson's cadastral survey of Los Angeles in 1884; the right-hand map shows the same map at a slightly different scale imposed on a Google map of the same area. Today there is no trace of the Coronel home. The junction of East 7th Street and Alameda Street forms the south-east corner of the 'Skid Row' area of Los Angeles, which contains one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States. A 'Skid Row' area is defined as 'a shabby urban area with cheap taverns, dive bars, and dilapidated hotels frequented by lowlifes, alcoholics, and itinerants.' (they forgot the drug-users and prostitutes). One of the landmarks of Skid Row is Indian Alley, so-named because it became a refuge for indigent American Indians. Don Antonio, would, I think, have felt honoured to receive such people and be pleased that the site of his house is now the Skid Row Housing Trust at 1317 E. 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90021 and the Inner City Law Centre of 1309 E. 7th Street (where the red arrow points to). Far from learning the lessons of the past, from such sources as 'Ramona', the 'establishment' of Los Angeles seems to have waged a persistent war on the poor of the area over many years, including 'patient dumping' (when hospitals dump poor people on the streets).

A Google map of part of Los Angeles imposed on an 1849 map by Bancroft & Thayer. To align the maps I drew a line from the western part of 7th Street to Alameda Street as shown. I then drew the outline of the property owned by Antonio Coronel as per Stevenson's cadastral survey of Los Angeles in 1884 (above). There is only one building within this boundary (just above the 't' of the text 'S Central Ave') which corresponds to the modern address of 1242 East 7th Street, currently a block of 76 studio apartments in a building called 'Rivers' owned by the SRO Housing Corporation.

When the Coronel family arrived in California in 1834 they appear to have initially settled at Rancho Los Corralitos, Monterey. Ygnacio Coronel (Don Antonio's father) was a teacher there (they did not own the property). They moved to Los Angeles in 1837. The family do not appear to have lived at either of the Ranchos they owned near Los Angeles (La Cañada from 1843 and Los Feliz from 1863) but, from 1846, seemed to have lived at Cajon (Alley) de los Negros near the Los Angeles Plaza (now Los Angeles Plaza Park), which is now that part of North Los Angeles Street between Arcadia Street and Los Angeles Plaza Park. Antonio Coronel purchased 53 acres of land near the junction of 7th and Alameda, as shown on the map above, and moved there, possibly following the death of his father in 1862. The house near the plaza was later demolished. He also purchased a further 617 acres of land nearby.

A contemporary and an 1860s map of Los Angeles Plaza Park, the centre of the original pueblo (village) of Los Angeles. As far as I can work it out the Coronel adobe was in the place marked in red.

This photograph (circa 1875) is looking north up Los Angeles Street. Leading away on the right-hand side of the picture is 'Negro Alley' (Cajon de los Negros). The low white building in the centre is the old Coronel Adobe. I think that the tree behind the adobe was in the Plaza - or thereabouts. By this time the area was known as China Town ('Old China Town' as opposed to the 'New China Town') and had become run down, having been home to some of the city's wealthiest families.

Another picture (1884 or later) looking north up 'Negro Alley' (Cajon de los Negros) which shows the corner of the old Coronel Adobe. In the background is the new fire station on the plaza (built in 1884) with its watch-tower. A line from the left-hand side of the watch-tower through the south-west corner of the fire station aligns with the corner of the old Coronel adobe. This allows us to identify the location of the corner of the old adobe, as shown on the right.

'Drawn from life by the author - In the Chinese Quarter in Los Angeles' by Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria (1847-1915). An illustration from his book 'Eine Blume aus dem goldenen Lande oder Los Angeles' ('A Flower from the Golden Land of Los Angeles', published 1878 and 1885). I believe that this is one side of the Coronel Adobe looking toward the southern end of 'Negro Alley' (Cajon de los Negros) from the west end of Arcadia Street towards Main Street. The curving down lower left-hand end of the veranda roof matches the circa 1875 photograph above.

Typically, an adobe would be a single-story building around two or three sides of a square with a veranda/galllery (raised or not) running round one or more of the sides. The adobe had no corridors but was a simple series of rooms (possibly a dozen or more in a large adobe) connected via the veranda/gallery; that is, there were no internal corridors and doors opened onto the veranda/gallery. This is similar in concept to a Roman villa and is a design well-adapted to hot climates. An idea of what the Coronel Adobe would have looked like can be gained from the photographs of the Avila Adobe below, the oldest building in Los Angeles and now open to the public as a museum and historic cultural monument. The Avila Adobe is just on the other (northern) side of the Plaza, less than 300m from the site of the old Coronel adobe.

The Avila Adobe, the oldest building in Los Angeles and now open to the public as a museum and historic cultural monument.

Avila Adobe - Dining Room Avila Adobe - Drawing Room Avila Adobe - A bedroom

The Coronel adobe, 'El Recreo' ('The Retreat'), near the junction of 7th and Alameda.

'We quote from Mrs. Jackson's 'Glimpses of California and the Missions' this description of Señora de Coronel and the Coronel hacienda: "In the western suburbs of Los Angeles is a low adobe house, built after the ancient style, on three sides of a square, surrounded by orchards, vineyards and orange groves, and looking out on an old-fashioned garden in which southernwood, rue, lavender, mint, marigolds and gilly flowers hold their own bravely, growing in straight and angular beds among the newer splendors of verbenas, roses, carnations, and geraniums. On two sides of the house runs a broad porch, where stand rows of geraniums and chrysanthemums, growing in odd-shaped earthen pots. Here may often be seen a beautiful young Mexican woman, flitting about among the plants, or sporting with a superb Saint Bernard dog. Her clear olive skin, soft brown eyes, delicate sensitive nostrils, and broad smiling mouth, are all of the Spanish Madonna type; and when her low brow is bound, as is often her wont, by turban folds of soft brown or green gauze, her face becomes a picture indeed. She is the young wife of a gray-headed Mexican señor, of whom - by his own gracious permission - I shall speak by his familiar name, Don Antonio. Whoever has the fortune to pass as a friend across the threshold of this house finds himself transported, as by a miracle, into the life of a half-century ago. The rooms are ornamented with fans, shells, feather and wax flowers, pictures, saints' images, old laces, and stuffs, in the quaint gay Mexican fashion. On the day when I first saw them, they were brilliant with bloom. In every one of the deep window-seats stood a cone of bright flowers, its base made by large white datura blossoms, their creamy whorls all turned outward, making a superb decoration. I went for but a few moments' call. I stayed three hours, and left carrying with me bewildering treasures of pictures of the olden time."' (Carlyle Channing Davis and William A. Alderson, ‘The True Story of "Ramona": Its Facts And Fictions, Inspiration And Purpose’, Dodge Publishing Co., New York, 1914, p. 25-26).

'Near the western end of Don Antonio's porch is an orange tree, on which were hanging at this time twenty-five hundred oranges, ripe and golden among the glossy leaves. Under this tree my carriage always waited for me. The Señora never allowed me to depart without bringing to me, in the carriage, farewell gifts of flowers and fruit; clusters of grapes, dried and fresh; great boughs full of oranges, more than I could lift. As I drove away thus, my lap filled with bloom and golden fruit, canopies of golden fruit over my head, I said to myself often: "Fables are prophecies. The Hesperides* have come true."' (Carlyle Channing Davis and William A. Alderson, ‘The True Story of "Ramona": Its Facts And Fictions, Inspiration And Purpose’, Dodge Publishing Co., New York, 1914, p. 62).

*In Greek legend the Hesperides are the daughters of Hesperus (the Evening Star - hence the Hesperides are 'The Daughters of the Evening Star') who tend a blissful garden in a far western corner of the world. The 'Garden of the Hesperides' is Hera's 'Orchard in the West', where the golden apples of immortality grow. It has been conjectured that the 'golden apples' are, in fact, oranges. Don Antonio's brother-in-law, Matias Sabich or Sabici (1798-1852), planted the first orange trees in California.

In 'Glimpses of California and the Missions' Mrs. Jackson gives this sketch of Don Antonio de Coronel: 'Don Antonio speaks little English; but the Señora knows just enough of the language to make her use of it delicious, as she translates for her husband. It is an entrancing sight to watch his dark, weather-beaten face, full of lightning changes as he pours out torrents of his nervous, eloquent Spanish speech; watching his wife intently, hearkening to each word she uses, sometimes interrupting her urgently with, 'No, no; that is not it,' - for he well understands the tongue he cannot or will not use for himself. He is sixty-five years of age, but he is young; the best waltzer in Los Angeles to-day; his eye keen, his blood fiery quick; his memory like a burning-glass bringing into sharp light and focus a half-century as if it were a yesterday. Full of sentiment, of an intense and poetic nature, he looks back to the lost empire of his race and people on the California shores with a sorrow far too proud for any antagonisms or complaints.' (Carlyle Channing Davis and William A. Alderson, ‘The True Story of "Ramona": Its Facts And Fictions, Inspiration And Purpose’, Dodge Publishing Co., New York, 1914, p. 59).

There is no proven connection to the Senior/Coronel family other than the surname, but on the basis that the Coronel surname became extinct on the death of the three daughters (Aldonza, Mayor and Maria) of Alfonso Fernandez Coronel, Lord of Aguilar ('Lord of the Eagle's Nest'; that is, Aguilar de la Frontera), who was executed by King Peter the Cruel in 1353, and scholars assert that it did (Fedewa, María of Ágreda - Mystical Lady in Blue, p. 15), then anyone of the surname Coronel after that date must have been descended from Don Abraham Senior (who took the name Fernan Perez Coronel when he converted to Christianity in 1492) or other members of his family who converted at the same time.

Don Antonio Francisco Coronel (1817-1894) Zorro

Don Antonio Francisco Coronel (1817-1894), from the cover of 'Tales of Mexican California' (Coronel, Antonio, Bellerophon Books, 1995 re-print). That cape, that hat, that sword... A Spanish army officer of California, a Don of the olden days who defended the rights of the native Indians, who inspired the love of a younger woman, who danced and played the guitar like a master? It reminds me of someone...

Zorro (whispering to his baby son): 'And so it was. Lighting split the sky, thunder shook the earth, and then all was quiet. The great warrior known as Zorro was gone. The people of the land gave him a hero's funeral, the largest anyone had ever seen. They came from far and wide to say farewell to their brave and noble champion. But don't worry, little Joaquin. Whenever great deeds are remembered, your grandfather will live on. For there must always, always be a Zorro. And some day, when he's needed, we will see him again... on his fearsome steed Tornado, riding like the wind, his sword blazing in the sun... leaping, jumping, swinging through the air... fighting like a lion. Fighting like a tiger. Fighting... [sees Elena watching him] ...as safely as possible.
Elena: 'Is this your idea of putting the baby to sleep? ...When I sleep, I will dream of this dashing rogue Zorro. But what face shall I give him?'
Zorro: 'He has been many different men, but he has loved you as all of them.'
Elena: 'How can I refuse such a man? Do you know where I might find him?'
Zorro: 'You know Zorro. He could be anywhere.'

(closing lines of the 1998 film 'The Mask of Zorro' starring Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and Catherine Zeta-Jones)

Don Antonio Francisco Coronel (1817-1894)

Don Antonio Francisco Coronel (1817-1894) George J. Lewis as Don Alejandro de la Vega, father of Don Diego de la Vega ('Zorro'), in the 1957 Walt Disney TV series 'Zorro'.

A fiesta at the Coronel house in Los Angeles - Don Antonio dancing with his wife, Dona Mariana.

Two years after Don Antonio's death in 1894 the Americans were sentimentally trying to recreate the way of life they had destroyed - for a few days a year.

As a descendant of Don Abraham Senior/Fernan Perez Coronel (1412-1493), Don Antonio Coronel appears to have been a descendant of El Cid, via Don Abraham’s first wife, Violante de Cabrera. A grand-daughter of Don Abraham Senior, Maria Coronel, was the second wife of the popular Spanish hero, Juan Bravo (x 1521), who led the revolt of the Communeros (1520-1522) against the Emperor, Charles V (but the empire struck back); the Communeros inspired later revolutions in Paraguay (1721) and Columbia (1781). Thus we have a possible link between ‘El Cid’, Juan Bravo and Zorro, three of the greatest legendary warriors in history.

Juan Bravo’s mother was Maria de Mendoza (daughter of the Count of Monteagudo) and that family inherited the Lordship of de la Vega, the surname of Don Diego de la Vega or ‘Zorro’, following the marriage of Leonor Lasso de la Vega, the heiress of the lordship, to Diego Hurtado de Mendoza in 1387. Thus there is a proven connection between the Coronel and de la Vega families.

Arms of Manuel Jose da Mata de Sousa Coutinho (1782-1859), 1st Count of Penafiel (Portugal) and a Knight of the Order of Christ, a Senior/Coronel (descendant of Don Abraham Senior) in the male line, on the ceiling of the Hall of Arms, Palace of Correio-Mor, Loures, near Lisbon, showing, quarterly: first, the arms of da Mata (originally Coronel – they adopted the name da Mata Coronel, then da Mata (dropping the name Coronel), then da Mata de Sousa Coutinho via marriage); second and third, Camara; fourth, Mendoza (being Mendoza and de la Vega – de la Vega is the gold field with the motto ‘Ave Maria’ (usually ‘Ave Maria, Gratia Plena’ or ‘Hail Mary, Full of Grace’). So this is the coat of arms of a member of the Coronel family quartering the arms of de la Vega. Note that the arms of Camara consist of a silver tower on a green hill with two golden wolves. Not quite foxes (‘zorro’ in Spanish) but close.

Arms of de la Vega – Or, the salutation ‘Ave Maria Gratia Plena’ (‘Hail Mary Full of Grace’) in letters sable.
A daughter of Don Abraham Senior, Constanza, married a Tomaz da Veiga (which is not a million miles from ‘de la Vega’). They were ancestors of the d’Evora e Veiga family, Marquises of Sao Payo in Portugal, and ancestors (in the female line) of the Marquises of Rodes and Counts of Lichtervelde in Belgium.

'El Cid', Juan Bravo and Zorro.